Rattigan’s plays have been largely out of favour for some time now. This is a pity, because they represent some of the best that British theatre can provide, and have great emotional depth. Every now and again we come across a revival that reminds us of what we have been missing.
In Praise of Love may not be one of his most effective pieces, and may be excessively wordy for some, but it still has the power to move and, at times, to amuse.
This production by John Dawson is largely effective if, visually, it struggles somewhat to identify its period. For the second production running the Talisman wardrobe falls short. We are supposed to be witnessing the 1970s, but what we see costume-wise is too modern and, occasionally, conflicts with the tone and the style of the piece.
If one can put this aside, however, there is much to enjoy in the performances. Linda Connor, making only her second appearance at the Talisman, gives an assured rendering of Lydia Cruttwell, the wife with a terminal diagnosis. The character has to run the gamut of emotions during the course of the play. Ms Connor achieves this with some style and succeeds with a fairly subtle central European accent (Lydia being Estonian by birth).
As her, apparently, hard-nosed husband with Communist affiliations, Andrew Bayliss gives a largely believable portrayal (especially in the latter stages) of a man shielding his true emotions from both family and friends by bluster and feigned disdain.
In the lesser roles of family friend and the Cruttwell’s Liberal supporter son, John Francis and Damian Story do well. Mr Francis is suitably relaxed and sympathetic as Mark, a pleasant change from some of his more exuberant performances, and it is good to see a young actor like Mr Story coming across strongly in a small but vital role.
Paul Chokran’s set, an adaptation from the previous production, works well.
Overall not perfect, but an enjoyable evening nonetheless, and deserves to be seen by bigger audiences than I witnessed.