Play by Terence Rattigan. A powerful drama of passion versus loyalty. Hester Collyer, the daughter of a clergyman and wife of a judge is foundering in the closing stages of a hopeless affair. Freddie Page, her lover, a handsome but shallow ex-Battle of Britain pilot, is out of his depth in their relationship, overwhelmed by the strength of an emotion he is incapable of reciprocating.
When you're caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, the deep blue sea can sometimes look very inviting, according to the heroine of Terence Rattigan's 1952 study of obsession and the destructive power of love. Terrance Rattigan's powerful and intelligent drama is played out against the rapidly changing social background of post-war Britain. As the playwright unravels the lives of his intriguing and multi-faceted characters we see him at his emotive and engaging best.
The Deep Blue Sea - Original London West End Production - 1952
Opened 6 March 1952, Closed 30 May 1953 at the Duchess Theatre
The original cast featured Peggy Ashcroft as 'Hester Collyer', Roland Culver as 'William Collyer' and Kenneth More as 'Freddie Page' with Raymond Francis as 'Jackie Jackson', David Aylmer as 'Philip Welch', Ann Walford as 'Ann Welch', Barbara Leake as 'Mrs Elton' and Peter Illing as 'Mr Miller'. Directed by Frith Banbury with sets by Tanya Moiseiwitsch and costumes Ray Diffen.
While Peggy Ashcroft was on holiday during September 1952, Celia Johnson took over the role of 'Hester'. Peggy Ashcroft then returned and continued in the role up to Saturday 20 December 1952 with Googie Withers taking over from Monday 22 December 1952 until the end of the run.
The Deep Blue Sea - 1st West End Revival - 1988
Previewed 24 May 1988, Opened 26 May 1988, Closed 30 July 1988 at the Haymarket Theatre
The cast featured Penelope Keith as 'Hester Collyer', Anthony Bate as 'William Collyer' and David Yelland as 'Freddie Page' with Vincent Brimble as 'Jackie Jackson', Adam Blackwood as 'Philip Welch', Barbara Wilshere as 'Ann Welch', Julia McCarthy as 'Mrs Elton' and John Normington as 'Mr Miller'. Directed by Alan Strachan with sets by Eileen Diss, costumes by Dany Everett and lighting by Mick Hughes.
The Deep Blue Sea - 2nd West End Revival - 1993
Previewed 6 January 1993, Opened 12 January 1993, Closed 6 March 1993 at the Almeida Theatre
Previewed 16 March 1993, Opened 22 March 1993, Closed 19 June 1993 at the Apollo Theatre
The cast featured Penelope Wilton as 'Hester Collyer', Nicholas Jones s 'William Collyer' and Linus Roache as 'Freddie Page' with Edward Tudor-Pole as 'Jackie Jackson', William Osborne as 'Philip Welch', Susie Lindeman as 'Ann Welch', Sandra Voe as 'Mrs Elton' and Wojtek Pszoniak as 'Mr Miller'. Directed by Karel Reisz with designs by William Dudley and lighting by Mark Henderson.
This staging was filmed for BBC Television in a re-cast staging that featured Penelope Wilton as 'Hester Collyer' with Ian Holm as 'William Collyer', Colin Firth as 'Freddie Page' and Stephen Tompkinson as 'Philip Welch' along with Edward Tudor-Pole as 'Jackie Jackson', Geraldine Somerville as 'Ann Welch', Carmel McSharry as 'Mrs Elton' and Wojciech Pszoniak as 'Mr Miller'. The television broadcast premiere took place on Saturday 12 November 1994.
The Deep Blue Sea - 3rd West End Revival - 2008
Previewed 29 April 2008, Opened 13 May 2008, Closed 5 July 2008 at the Vaudeville Theatre
The cast featured Greta Scacchi as 'Hester Collyer', Simon Williams as 'William Collyer' and Dugald Bruce-Lockhart as 'Freddie Page' with Jack Tarlton as 'Jackie Jackson', Geoff Breton as 'Philip Welch', Rebecca O'Mara as 'Ann Welch', Jacqueline Tong as 'Mrs Elton' and Tim McMullan as 'Mr Miller'. Directed by Edward Hall with designs by Francis O'Connor, costume supervision by Estelle Butler, lighting by Peter Mumford and sound by Matt McKenzie.
Greta Scacchi's London theatre credits include 'Ilona' in Janet Suzman's revival of Ferenc Molnar's The Guardsman at the Albery Theatre in 2000; and 'Yelena' in Michael Blakemore's revival of Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya at the Vaudeville Theatre in 1988.
Edward Hall London theatre directing credits include Imelda Staunton in Michael Hastings' Calico (Duke of York's Theatre 2004) and Sean Bean in Shakespeare's Macbeth (Noel Coward Theatre 2002). He has also directed the all-male Propeller Theatre Company in Shakespeare's plays The Taming of the Shrew (Old Vic Theatre 2007), Twelfth Night (Old Vic Theatre 2007) and A Midsummer Night's Dream (Harold Pinter Theatre 2003).
"Sir Terence Rattigan's polished, perceptive plays long dominated the London theatre, and critics were breathless with praise while actors jostled to appear in them. His work, so skilfully written, often exposed the very depth of the human condition in English uppermiddle class life. Sadly, his style was damned overnight in 1956 with the gritty appearance of John Osborne's Look Back in Anger. Kitchen sink was in and drawing room angst was out. Fortunately, Rattigan's work is enjoying a revival and his 1952 play The Deep Blue Sea, a study of the destructive power of obsessive love, is the dramatist at his best... Greta Scacchi is outstanding as the passionate and melodramatic Hester. It is a fearsomely meaty role and this outstanding actress embraces it with great ardour and compelling energy... Dugald Bruce-Lockhart is a triumph as the weak, alcoholic and louche Freddie. He, too, manages to reveal his fundamental despair amid all his false jollity and dated RAF slang. The scene in which he reveals that he cannot love Hester as she would want is deeply moving and this young actor never lets it fall out of control. Simon Williams gives a first- class portrayal as Sir William Collyer, Hester's estranged husband. He presents a complex character, a man who is awkward in his concept of what love is... But one of the most riveting performances of this excellent production comes from Tim McMullan as the struck-off doctor Miller. This is a masterful performance of a man who has accepted his weaknesses and deficiencies and come to terms with living life as best he can... But, although this is vintage Rattigan, there is a seriously dated feel to it. There is much drama, but it is a deep step into the theatrical past." The Daily Express
"Hester Collyer is a peculiarly difficult part to play - the character is full of passion, guilt and grief, and, in the wrong hands, can all too easily go right over the top - but Miss Scacchi brings her alive in a harrowing and emotionally draining performance that I reckon is the finest piece of acting I have seen in a decade... The play is set in the 1950s, so what is not said is every bit as important as what is said, and Miss Scacchi, with the seven other members of the cast, ably directed by Edward Hall, gets across all of Rattigan's subtleties with style and eloquence. The actors don't so much play their parts as inhabit them. Simon Williams is on superb form as the stiff, starchy and sexless husband whom Hester dumped. Bruce-Lockhart hints very well at the bruised and battered little boy hiding behind the caricature of an ex-RAF pilot that he presents to the outside world. There is also a performance of sly, scene-stealing brilliance from Tim McMullan - shaping up very rapidly as one of the country's most accomplished character actors - as a struck-off doctor who knows very well what Hester is going through... While the play is scarcely a comedy, I was struck by the amount of knowing laughter that there was from the first-night audience: it is the kind of laughter you always get from lines that touch on fundamental truths." The Sunday Telegraph
"Greta Scacchi's performance as Hester is well judged and affecting. Dugald Bruce-Lockhart is perfect as Freddie, who frankly loathes emotions, and Tim McMullan hilariously stylised as the mysterious, caustic lodger, Mr Miller, with a voice surely modelled on Clement Freud's. Francis O'Connor's set is richly redolent of gloomy boarding-house life, with its gas meters, net curtains and empty gin bottles by the sink. Unfortunately, all this faithful acting and interpretation, in Edward Hall's production, only exposes Rattigan's well-known faults, as well as his virtues. It's an intriguing portrayal of the power of obsessive love, and the one liners are cuttingly memorable. Yet it's also woefully schematic and controlled, with nobody stepping out of character for one moment. The play has that lack of primal energy, chaos and mystery that denotes a minor talent." The Sunday Times
The Deep Blue Sea in London at the Vaudeville Theatre previewed from 29 April 2008, opened 13 May 2008 and closed on 5 July 2008.
The Deep Blue Sea - London Revival (National Theatre) - 2016
Previewed 1 June 2016, Opened 8 June 2016, Closed 21 September 2016 (in repertory) at the NT Lyttelton Theatre
The cast featured Helen McCrory as 'Hester Collyer', Peter Sullivan as 'William Collyer' and Tom Burke as 'Freddie Page' with Adetomiwa Edun as 'Jackie Jackson', Hubert Burton as 'Philip Welch', Yolanda Kettle as 'Ann Welch', Marion Bailey as 'Mrs Elton' and Nick Fletcher as 'Mr Miller'. Directed by Carrie Cracknell with movement by Polly Bennett, designs by Tom Scutt, lighting by Guy Hoare, music by Stuart Earl and sound by Peter Rice.
When this production opened at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre in June 2016, Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times praised "Carrie Cracknell's beautiful staging of Terence Rattigan's masterpiece." Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard hailed how "Helen McCrory is achingly good in this sombre, tense revival of one of Terence Rattigan's finest plays.. McCrory delivers one of the performances of the year. Rigorous and poised, she makes Hester fragile and big-hearted, wry and wise but in the end a vortex of irrepressible desire." Neil Norman in the Daily Express highlighted that "Carrie Cracknell directs a strong cast with discretion and Tom Scutt’s beautiful set has semi-transparent walls revealing the lodgers coming and going like ghosts so that Hester’s sense of isolation plays out in subtle ways... McCrory’s Hester is the key to success here. A totally credible woman of the 1950s, trapped between the expectations of society and her own blazing desire. A memorable portrait of a woman who is truly, madly deeply romantic to the point of self-immolation." Ann Treneman in the Times noted that "there are three reasons why this production is a stand-out. Helen McCrory is fantastic as Hester Collyer... Reason No 2: Carrie Cracknell directs with total assurance... Finally, there is Tom Scutt's set, an interior cut-away of a block of flats in Ladbroke Grove, bursting with Fifties detail... It's a heady mix. This is what the National can be and should be." Quentin Letts for the Daily Mail explained that, although "there are several things to admire here, but at the end I felt unmoved. It left me as cold as the sort of dead fish Rattigan often sketched... Miss McCrory is, as ever, watchable; yet despite the period detail of the set, her accent and attitudes seem too modern for early Fifties London, " adding that "director Carrie Cracknell makes almost no effort to explore the class subtleties which abound in Rattigan." Ben Lawrence in the Daily Telegraph described how "this splendid new production from Carrie Cracknell is intoxicating, bringing new shades of complexity to this famous, muchrevived work about an affair gone badly wrong in the aftermath of the Second World War." Michael Billington in the Guardian said that it was "an impassioned production by Carrie Cracknell that illuminates Rattigan’s psychological understanding and boasts a shining performance from Helen McCrory."
The Deep Blue Sea in London at the NT Lyttelton Theatre previewed from 1 June 2016, opened on 8 June 2016 and closed on 21 September 2016 (in repertory)