Movie: The Deep Blue Sea

National Theatre Live again delivers with its production of The Deep Blue Sea.

Tom Burke and Helen McCrory in the Deep Blue Sea.

Tom Burke and Helen McCrory in The Deep Blue Sea*.

As is the case with all NTL productions, the movie provides the opportunity to see a top class play as it appeared on stage in London.

The Deep Blue Sea played at the National Theatre from June to September this year to critical and audience acclaim thanks mainly to the performance of Helen McCrory. After seeing her in action it is easy to understand why. She portrays a range of emotions brilliantly in what’s often described as one of the greatest female roles in contemporary drama.

Written by Terence Rattigan, The Deep Blue Sea is set in London in 1952. Hester Collyer (McCrory) is found by her neighbours after an unsuccessful suicide attempt.

Peter Sullivan and Helen McCrory.

Peter Sullivan and Helen McCrory.

Gradually we learn Hester is separated from her husband, high court judge Lord Willian Collyer (Peter Sullivan) and is living in a tempestuous relationship with her lover Freddie (Tom Burke), a former RAF and test pilot, in run down lodgings in London.

The two men couldn’t be more different. Freddie has a drinking problem, is self-absorbed and emotional while William is very controlled and shows little emotion.

Nick Fletcher and Helen McCrory.

Nick Fletcher and Helen McCrory.

It seems neither man can give Hester what she wants. As a result we often see her as needy and lonely. But then, as shown by her relationship with William, she can be determined. With Freddie her insecurities and passion are evident. Occasionally we also see she has a very dry wit.

Slowly she comes to the realisation that there is nothing for her in England. It is left to fellow outsider Mr Miller (Nick Fletcher), a former doctor from Germany, to try and persuade her to choose life over death.

The set of the Deep Blue Sea.

The set of The Deep Blue Sea.

As well as filming the play, the NTL production also includes an interview with director Carrie Cracknell. Knowing little about Rattigan or this play I found this interview interesting although my companion found it unnecessary. It was one of several points which caused discussion after the screening – the suitability of the set (a lodging house with transparent walls) was another. That’s the great joy of the NTL productions – the chance to see and thus discuss plays being staged outside Australia.

The Deep Blue Sea is screening at selected cinemas from 8 October. Visit National Theatre Live for more information and screening details.

*All photos: Richard-Hubert-Smith.

Jenny Burns attended the preview of The Deep Blue Sea as a guest of Sharmill Films.

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