Wyndham’s Theatre. Directed by David Grindley. With Dianna Rigg and Martin Jarvis.
An hour-and-forty-minute play with no intermission, consisting of a series of short scenes in which the break-up of a long-term marriage is accomplished, with damage to both sides and a daughter too, while the other woman, young and a would-be writer, finds she has “lost something” and breaks off her liaison with said husband, leaving him and his separated wife to sit at the daughter’s graduation and mull over what has happened to their lives. Well into the play, the struggling young woman writer, who stole the husband away from his wise but resigned wife, gives her novel manuscript to her lover, the husband, to read; he falls all over himself trying to avoid hurting her feelings and, at length, explains to her that her characters are over-articulate: they explain themselves all too clearly and explicitly.
The same may be said for Murray-Smith’s play. She seems to be struggling — or perhaps just hoping — for something further to evolve and emerge from what she has written. Unfortunately, such is not the case. It means itself, and only itself. It has been said that Strindberg’s plays are distinguished by the fact that the action is the occasion for something that completely transcends the ostensible subject matter. The play is a metaphor for something deeper, less accessible, perhaps, but a good deal more profound.
Murray-Smith’s play has a long history of production, including a long foreign tour. With the right actors — it takes four equally strong actors to do it right, and that was the case with this production too — it is a viable, interesting night in the theatre. And if there is a star draw, as here, with a mature, poised Diana Rigg, so much the better. But the play does not fix itself in the mind, nor does it ever reach the heart.