The Deep Blue Sea (play)

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First edition (publ. Hamish Hamilton)

The Deep Blue Sea (1952) is a stage play by Terence Rattigan, first performed in London, 6 March 1952, when it was praised by critics and audiences as evidence that Rattigan's view of life was growing deeper and more complex.[citation needed] It also won praise for actress Peggy Ashcroft, who co-starred with Kenneth More. Its Broadway premiere on 5 November 1953, starring Margaret Sullavan, was not nearly so well-received, and ran for only 132 performances. Later revivals have starred Penelope Wilton, Isabel Dean, Penelope Keith, Blythe Danner, Harriet Walter, and Greta Scacchi.[1] 2011 saw two major British revivals to mark Rattigan's centenary, one at the West Yorkshire Playhouse with Maxine Peake as Hester and Lex Shrapnel as Freddy. The other was at the Chichester Festival Theatre with Amanda Root as Hester alongside Anthony Calf and John Hopkins.

Actor Lex Shrapnel says, “It’s a play about love and lust. But also about what it was like to live after the war. Freddy was a Spitfire pilot in World War II. He came out of that a war hero and worked as a test pilot, but lost his nerve and hit the bottle. Before we join the play he’s met Hester and pours his heart out to her at a time when people were very closed up. We join them at the nadir of their relationship.”[2]

Plot summary[edit]

The Deep Blue Sea begins with the discovery by her neighbours of Hester Collyer who has tried and failed to commit suicide. Some time before, she left her husband, a respectable High Court Judge, for a semi-alcoholic former RAF pilot, Freddy Page. The relationship was physical and passionate but his ardour has cooled, leaving her emotionally stranded and desperate. The aftershocks of her attempted suicide unravel even the remnants of this relationship, but by the end she is brought to a hard decision to live, partly through the intercession of another resident of the tenement house, Mr. Miller, an ex-doctor, struck off for what seems to have been a homosexual offence. These two outcasts, socially ostracised for their 'excessive' loves, find a curious and moving kinship.

Screen adaptations[edit]

A number of screen adaptations of the play have been made. The first, for BBC Television, was broadcast live on 17 and 21 January 1954 in the Sunday Night Theatre strand, with Kenneth More as Freddie, and Googie Withers as Hester. A feature film version directed by Anatole Litvak was released the following year, with More again reprising the role of Freddie, and Vivien Leigh as Hester.

A further BBC version, in the Play of the Month series was transmitted on 17 March 1974. Directed by Rudolph Cartier, it starred Peter Egan (Freddie), and Virginia McKenna (Hester). The most recent BBC adaptation, in the Performance strand, was transmitted on 12 November 1994, directed by Karel Reisz, with Colin Firth (Freddie Page ), Penelope Wilton (Hester Collyer), and Ian Holm (William Collyer).

In 2011 a second feature film adaptation, The Deep Blue Sea, was made, directed by Terence Davies and starring Rachel Weisz and Tom Hiddleston. The film is a Camberwell/Fly Film Production and funded by the UK Film Council and Film4.

  1. ^ "UK Theater Web". Retrieved 15 March 2012. 
  2. ^ Giles, Hannah (January 29, 2011). "Brief Encounter With ... Lex Shrapnel". Retrieved October 25, 2012.