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Cause Celebre – Reviews Round-up

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A round-up of reviews for Cause Celebre at the Old Vic Theatre in London

Anne-Marie Duff in Cause Celebre at the Old Vic

Anne-Marie Duff in Cause Celebre at the Old Vic

Terence Rattigan’s final play, Cause Celebre, has opened at the Old Vic Theatre in London starring Anne-Marie Duff and Niamh Cusack.

The play is based on the  true story of Alma Rattenbury (Anne-Marie Duff), who was put on trial in 1935 along with her 18-year-old lover, accused of killing her husband. Vilified by the public as much for her seduction of a younger man as the murder of her husband, the play examines the role of passion, guilt and loyalty in 1930s England. Niamh Cusack plays socially and sexually repressed jury forewoman of the trial, Edith Davenport.

Thea Sharrock, who directed an Olivier award-winning production of Rattigan’s After the Dance at the National Theatre last year, directs the play following her recent revival of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit at the Apollo Theatre.

The play also stars Lucy Black, Timothy Carlton, Simon Chandler, Richard Clifford, Oliver Coopersmith, Rory Fleck-Byrne, Freddie Fox, Jenny Galloway, Patrick Godfrey, Nicholas Jones, Tommy McDonnell, Lucy Robinson, Tristan Shepherd, Richard Teverson, Sarah Waddell, Michael Webber and Tristram Wymark.

Read reviews from the Times, Telegraph, Hollywood Reporter, Express and Evening Standard, below.

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Round up of press reviews

The Telegraph
  • The Telegraph
  • Review by Charles Spencer
  • “Sharrock’s loving and beautifully acted revival... mixes anguish, suspense, humour and compassion to often electrifying effect. It also once again proves that in skilled hands, the now unfashionable courtroom drama can be one of the most gripping of theatrical genres.”
    “Rattigan achieves some spectacular successes in this play. With great skill he makes us care about and even admire a woman whom we are initially invited to view as a manipulative minx and cradle-snatcher.”
    “Thea Sharrock’s production isn’t quite as pitch perfect as her revival of Rattigan’s After the Dance at the National last year. But where it matters most, the play constantly rings strong and true, with its moving insistence on the innate decency of which even the most flawed among us are capable.”
    “Anne-Marie Duff is electrifying as Rattenbury, capturing all the complexity of a woman driven by love and lust, at times repellent in her manipulation and vulgarity, at others deeply moving in her flayed emotions and what we come to recognise as a truly noble generosity of spirit.”
    “one leaves the theatre marvelling afresh at Rattigan’s ability to mix gripping entertainment with such a moving depth of compassion.”
  • Read the full review here
The Guardian
  • The Guardian
  • Review by Michael Billington
  • “Terence Rattigan's final play stands the test of time. And, watching Thea Sharrock's fine revival, I was struck by how many classic Rattigan themes the play encapsulates: the inequality of passion, the power of youth over age and the corrosive effects of English sexual puritanism. Rattigan may have been a master of understatement, but he deplored emotional repression.”
    “Admittedly Anne-Marie Duff is not obvious casting as the happily hedonistic Alma. But she invests the role with a fragile intensity as if she is experiencing a bad dream, and has one wonderful moment when her eyes gaze adoringly at her young son who has been strategically placed in the courtroom. Meanwhile Niamh Cusack as Edith radiates the right conjugal frostiness until her belated conversion. And there is good work from Nicholas Jones as Alma's silky but patronising counsel and Simon Chandler as Edith's bereft husband.”
    “I was not moved to tears as in Flare Path. But there is an emotionally draining moment when we see a high-court judge donning the black triangle that signifies a sentence of death. And behind the play one senses the compassionate understanding for the outcast that was always Rattigan's trump card as a dramatist.”
  • Read the full review here
Evening Standard
  • Evening Standard
  • Review by Henry Hitchings
  • “She [Anne-Marie Duff] gives a performance of shimmering intensity as Alma Rattenbury, a glamorous former songwriter who, bored with her dusty husband, becomes infatuated with George, her young chauffeur.”
    “Sharrock directs clinically, and there's not enough sense of urgency and ardour. Matters aren't helped by a design that proves technically ingenious but rather ugly. “
    “A powerful finale and the quality of Duff and Cusack can't obscure the fact that this is not Rattigan at his most eloquently anguished.”
  • Read the full review here
Hollywood Reporter
  • Hollywood Reporter
  • Review by Ray Bennett
  • “an unconvincing courtroom drama”
    “despite laudable intentions, his [Rattigan’s] characters here are outside his comfort zone.”
    “Thea Sharrock's staging is outstanding with an unfussy set design by Hildegard Bechtler”
    “Alma is written as a giddy slattern and Anne-Marie Duff plays her that way but the woman's gaiety seems forced instead of vivacious.”
  • Read the full review here
Express
  • Express
  • Review by Paul Callan
  • “In a perceptive performance, Anne-Marie Duff peels back the character of Alma Rattenbury... Miss Duff possesses a chameleonlike ability to look deeply sexual one moment, her natural beauty blazing with lethal desire.”
    “Miss Cusack, in a gripping performance, displays the mounting fury of a woman with a deep-seated disgust at sex which she channels into her hatred of Alma.”
    “Thea Sharrock brings splendid tension to her direction of Cause Celebre. She never allows the pace to falter and she draws out of the characters a range of emotions, from gentleness to fury.”
  • Read the full review here

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