Theatre Review: The River Line at Jermyn Street Theatre

A Second World War drama sparks a lyrical debate on love, loss and guilt

Charles Morgan’s wartime drama The River Line has been unearthed from its 1950s hideaway and dusted off for a West End revival.

It is a compelling tale from the Second World War following the fate of a group of soldiers who flee on the historic River Line – an escape route from the Nazis run by the French resistance.

The narrative flits between this episode and the post-war suffering of a sister grieving for her fallen brother, played by actor siblings Charlie and Lydia Rose Bewley.

As well as a lyrical discourse on loss and guilt, the play has outspoken elements of Greek tragedy – in no small part because of the siblings’ slightly obsessive relationship.

It is, at times, too navel gazing to be taken as seriously as it would like. The script appears all too aware of how clever it is with its repetitive string of philosophical tenets and questions of fate and responsibility, yet fails to appreciate that the audience may just be able to get all of this without the lecture.

But aside from a lesson in subtlety, the production plays to its strengths – a winning storyline and an impressive cast.

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So comfortable are the actors in their intimate surroundings that the action flows easily between past and present.

The notable casting of real-life siblings is a good marketing tool but doesn’t necessarily make the performance all the more believable. But Lyne Renee, playing the beautiful and formidable Marie, a French collaborator who helps the British soldiers to escape the front line, exquisitely portrays the quiet sorrow we have come to expect from war dramas.

* The River Line is showing at Jermyn Street Theatre, in Jermyn Street, SW1, until Saturday, October 29.