Tag Archives: Terence Rattigan

While the Sun Shines

While the Sun Shines


Orange Tree Theatre

While the Sun Shines

While the Sun Shines

Orange Tree Theatre

Reviewed – 25th November 2021



“Paul Miller’s direction is most assured in the fast-paced, boot-stamping physical moments”


An English sailor, American bombardier and French lieutenant walk into a room. Soon they are sleeping together, playing craps for a Duke’s daughter and arguing for cross-border consensus on that timeless question echoing across dancefloors: what is love. There are plenty of belly laughs, but the unique achievement of this production (a revival from 2019) is in pulling through the real emotional stakes of muddling through relationships in your twenties. Amidst designer Simon Daw’s period design, costumes, hair are characters pleading to know the difference between loving someone and being in love. Sally Rooney eat your heart out.

Philip Labey as the Earl of Harpenden – a wonderfully smarmy Algernon Moncrieff type – is the vehicle for much of this. Where most of writer Terence Rattigan’s characters are comic stocks of military bravado or sheltered naivete, Labey has to run the gamut from diminutive camp drollery to genuine insecurity and back to loving earnestness. He shares a clean sense of comedic timing with Michael Lumsden (his military father in law) and both – with the help of dialect coach Emma Woodvine – have delightfully aristocratic accents down pat.

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Conor Glean’s Mid-Atlantic is, unfortunately, not as effective. He has the hulking, rugby-player’s physicality for Lieutenant Mulvaney, but his dialogue proves a stumbling block. He is dealt a tough hand from Rattigan – a script chock-a-block with ‘gee’s ‘darn’s and ‘see ya’s – but Glean’s inflection comes off all too often like Goofy, not an irresistible love-interest. It’s not that When the Sun Shines is exactly a case-study in dramatic realism, but it feels like the accent becomes a distraction: to the audience and Glean himself.

It might not be so obvious if his foil – Jordan Mifsúd’s French lovebird – wasn’t so forcibly funny. His accent isn’t a masterpiece of authenticity either, but he masterfully paints the picture of trembling, white-hot, Parisian passion. It’s a wonderfully idiosyncratic performance, teasing out snickers from the audience even while he forms the background to dialogue he isn’t a part of.

Most importantly, Mifsúd is a key part of the gathering momentum which drives this production home. Paul Miller’s direction is most assured in the fast-paced, boot-stamping physical moments: when the men pile out Harpenden’s room like a clown car, or Mulvaney and Lady Elizabeth Randall (played with burbling naivete by Rebecca Collingwood) drunkenly dance in the living room. There is a general sense of acceleration, checked only by a few moments of romance; these are managed movingly and it is refreshing to see an Intimacy Director, Yarit Dor, on the list of creatives.

Daw’s set is a simple, effective vehicle for these changes of pace: between a drinks cabinet, sofa and table he leaves enough space for Miller to block actors so that the audience never loses sight in the round. Lighting by Mark Doublebay doesn’t have much to do in a sitting room setting, but he squeezes in a charming window effect, which has the stage pooling with sunlight convincingly.

It’s not exactly the radical subversion of gender promised in the programme notes, but it does achieve something unique for a farce. In the intimate Orange Tree Theatre, Miller’s pulls off meaningful relationships between characters who are not all stereotyped and at the same time delivers the frenetic, off-the-walls energy of West End mainstays like One Man, Two Guvnors. The only draw-back to squeezing that much energy into such a space? John Hudson (a quiet star as Harpenden’s butler) literally bounces off a wall as he runs offstage and misses the curtain call with a bloody nose.



Reviewed by Daniel Shailer

Photography by Ali Wright


While the Sun Shines

Orange Tree Theatre until 8th January


Other shows reviewed this month:
Abigail’s Party | ★★★★ | Park Theatre | November 2021
Brian and Roger | ★★★★★ | Menier Chocolate Factory | November 2021
Footfalls and Rockaby | ★★★★★ | Jermyn Street Theatre | November 2021
Hedda Gabler | ★★★ | The Maltings Theatre | November 2021
Indecent Proposal | ★★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | November 2021
La Clique | ★★★★★ | Christmas in Leicester Square | November 2021
Le Petit Chaperon Rouge | ★★★★ | The Coronet Theatre | November 2021
Little Women | ★★★★ | Park Theatre | November 2021
Marlowe’s Fate | ★★★ | White Bear Theatre | November 2021
Six | ★★★★ | Vaudeville Theatre | November 2021
The Choir of Man | ★★★★★ | Arts Theatre | November 2021
The Good Life | ★★ | Cambridge Arts Theatre | November 2021
The Sugar House | ★★★★ | Finborough Theatre | November 2021
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike | ★★★ | Charing Cross Theatre | November 2021
Blue / Orange | ★★★★★ | Royal & Derngate | November 2021


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Love in Idleness

Apollo Theatre

Opening Night – Thursday 18th May




“a nostalgic treat, wonderfully warm and witty”


After a hugely successful run at the Menier Chocolate Factory earlier this year, Terence Rattigan’s 1944 play, Love in Idleness transfers to the West End for just fifty performances. Rattigan’s original work was called Less Than Kind which he later changed to be a less political and gentler show which was performed as Love in Idleness over 70 years ago.

Rattigan always regretted the toning down of the work so it’s pleasing that director Trevor Nunn has worked to create a new version which takes the best from both versions.

Set late in 1944, towards the end of the Second World War, the first three acts of this four act play take place in the plush Westminster home of Sir John Fletcher (Anthony Head), the Minister for Tank Production.

Sir John, despite still being married to his wife Diane (Charlotte Spencer) is living with Olivia Brown (Eve Best), the would  be socialite widow of a dentist. When Olivia’s son Michael (Edward Bluemel) returns from four years in Canada he immediately clashes with Sir John who as a wealthy businessman,  is the very antithesis of his newly fledged left wing idealogies.

Michael, horrified with his mother, tries to split the pair up with methods ranging from deeply cunning to simple teenage petulance. Edward Bluemel captures the character to perfection with his truculent exchanges with Sir John and moody mannerisms when not getting his way. Eventually to appease her son, Olivia leaves Sir John and returns to the flat she lived in with her late husband. 

The star of the show has to be Eve Best as Olivia, torn between her son and her lover. Best portrays the slightly scatty widow with comedic charm, at times reminiscent of the legendary Joyce Grenfell. From not knowing exactly how old her son is to her creative way of conserving rations (by going out to dine) the character is a delight.

British Pathé news footage is shown between the acts (although it’s only in the final act that there is a complete (rather long) set change), which works well as a background to the piece. This is certainly a period piece but never feels dated. The content of the play features issues that could easily be transposed into modern day.

Perhaps a little too long (2 hours and 45 minutes) but Love in Idleness is a nostalgic treat, wonderfully warm and witty.


Production Photography by Catherine Ashmore




Playing until 1st July at the Apollo Theatre