In Praise of Love (play)
In Praise of Love, originally entitled After Lydia, is the first part of a 1973 double-bill play by the English playwright Terence Rattigan (the second half being Before Dawn, a burlesque of the opera Tosca)—it was the penultimate play he wrote and was inspired by the true-life relationship between Rex Harrison and Kay Kendall, using characters named Sebastian and Lydia respectively and follows her illness and death.
The plays were described by Rattigans biographer Michael Darlow as:
|“||While on the surface the play takes the form of a comedy of misunderstanding, it quickly builds into a situation of almost unbearable suspense as layer after layer of comedy and pretence is peeled away from each character to reveal the full measure of each one's unspoken love and pain. As well as being an outstanding dissection of the nature of love and pain, In Praise of Love is as fine a statement about the loss of idealism and illusions in the 1970s as any play by any of the younger British dramatists of the period. The second play in the double bill was Before Dawn, a crude burlesque of Tosca. In contrast to the first play, in this love is talked about too much but not felt. In Praise of Love is a small masterpiece. Before Dawn is unaccountably feeble.||”|
The original production, at the Duchess Theatre, starred Donald Sinden as Sebastian and Joan Greenwood as Lydia. The subsequent New York production, which dropped the much-panned 2nd-act play Before Dawn, starred Rex Harrison in the role based on himself (Sebastian) and Julie Harris as Lydia. Rattigan was said to be "intensely disappointed and frustrated" by Harrisons performance, as "Harrison refused to play the outwardly boorish parts of the character and instead played him as charming throughout, signalling to the audience from the start that he knew the truth about Lydia's illness." Critics however were quite pleased with the performance and although it did not have a long run, it was yet another of Harrison's well plotted naturalistic performances.
It was filmed, to great acclaim with Alvin Rakoff directing, for Anglia Television in 1977 with Kenneth More and Claire Bloom and was revived at the Chichester Festival Theatre in 2006 and at the Royal and Derngate Theatres, Northampton in 2011. It was broadcast as a Radio drama on BBC Radio 4 the same year. It has become a staple of repertory theatres seasons since.
- In Praise of Love: This nostalgic play made me yearn for the lost days of robust political debate | Mail Online
- BBC - BBC Radio 4 Programmes - Saturday Play, In Praise of Love
- Chichester Festival Theatre : Press Release - In Praise of Love
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