Kenny Morgan, Arcola Theatre, review: ‘Terence Rattigan’s Deep Blue Sea – the true story’

kenny morgan

kenny morgan - Credit: Archant

The Deep Blue Sea – a 1952 play by Terence Rattigan that was based upon a true life event concerning his young lover, Kenneth Morgan. Morgan had left the successful playwright’s expensive Albany residence to live in a Camden Town bedsit with a younger bisexual man, with whom he had become besotted.

The uncaring attitude of this lover led Morgan to attempt suicide – a criminal offence at the time.

Rattigan wrote the play after Morgan’s death, but because it was not acceptable at the time to have gay characters on stage, he turned Morgan into Hester Collyer: an unhappily married woman – and Rattigan became the wealthy husband.

He had always wanted to write the true story – especially when the laws on homosexuality were changed – but somehow never did.

However, Michael Poulton, an admirer of Rattigan’s work, has written a most elegant and moving record of the affair.

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It mostly stays true to the story, but Poulton also uses a touch of artistic license with this set of confused characters and the post-war 1950s setting.

There is comedy arising from attempts by the other residents of the house to conceal what’s happening, with a scaremongering landlady, a Welshman who was first witness to the event, and a doctor neighbour, who has been ‘struck off’.

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The production is perfectly cast with the most urbane Simon Dutton, who is eloquent in words and elegant in costume, while Paul Keating displays a kind of innocence in his depression as Morgan.

The ‘other man,’ Alec, who is rather younger than the rest of them, is played by Pierro Neil-Mee.

In the hands of Michael Poulton and his director Lucy Bailey, it has become a powerful and tragic story with vocal cadences that eerily echo Rattigan’s own work.

Kenn Morgan is at the Arcola Theatre

Rating: 4/5 stars

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