Categories Print Media Reviews The Deep Blue Sea

The Deep Blue Sea Review: Helen McCrory blazes in passionate revival

Terence Rattigan’s powerful portrait of emotional turmoil in postwar Britain is beautifully played – if only the sound effects weren’t so disruptive

Michael Billington | June 9, 2016 | The Guardian

Intemperate feelings … Tom Burke and Helen McCrory in The Deep Blue Sea.
Intemperate feelings … Tom Burke and Helen McCrory in The Deep Blue Sea. Photograph: Richard Hubert Smith

Terence Rattigan’s best play has been long overdue for revival at the National. Fortunately, it gets an impassioned production by Carrie Cracknell that illuminates Rattigan’s psychological understanding and boasts a shining performance from Helen McCrory. Its only blemish is an intrusive sound score that suggests the characters are living not in west London in the 1950s but on the edge of Krakatoa during its eruption in the 1880s.

On a happier note, Tom Scutt’s design follows the example of the 1993 Almeida revival in creating a grey-green apartment block, with transparent walls, that reminds us that Rattigan’s play offers us a microcosm of 1950s England. The focus is palpably on Hester Collyer, a judge’s wife who has sacrificed ease and comfort to live with Freddie Page, a boyish war hero who cannot meet her emotional needs and who has no place in the modern world.

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Categories Reviews The Deep Blue Sea

The Deep Blue Sea – Lyttelton, National Theatre, Review: ‘McCrory gives a commanding portrayal of a woman exhausted by unreciprocated desire’

After winning awards for their collaboration on Medea, Helen McCrory and director Carrie Cracknell resume their partnership in this revival of Terence Rattigan’s 1952 masterpiece

by Paul Taylor | June 9, 2016 | The Independent

Helen McCrory gives a commanding performance in this revival of Terence Rattigan’s 1952 play
Helen McCrory gives a commanding performance in this revival of Terence Rattigan’s 1952 play

Helen McCrory and director Carrie Cracknell won awards for their striking collaboration on Medea. They resume their partnership, with more mixed results, in this revival of Terence Rattigan’s 1952 masterpiece.

You need an actress with the range to tackle the tragic extremities of Euripides and Racine if you seek to sound the depths of Hester Collyer, one of the great female roles of the postwar repertoire. The play may unfold in a dingy Ladbroke Grove rooming house, but it focuses on a woman who is a Fifties equivalent of Phedre, flouting convention in her obsessive infatuation with a man who cannot match the intensity of her feelings. One-sided passion, unequal love: it’s Rattigan’s abiding theme, explored here with matchless insight in a play that was inspired by the suicide of one of the playwright’s former male lovers.

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Categories Print Media Reviews The Deep Blue Sea

The Deep Blue Sea: Helen McCrory achingly good as woman adrif

McCrory delivers one of the performances of the year

by  Henry Hitchings | June 9, 2016 | Evening Standard

Smoke signals: Helen McCrory
Smoke signals: Helen McCrory / Richard Hubert Smith

Her character Hester Collyer is besotted with a man who is incapable of reciprocating her seriousness. When we first see her she’s flat out in front of an unlit gas fire, having failed to kill herself. Throughout the two and a half hours that follow, we suspect another suicide attempt is imminent.

Her lover Freddie is a drunk whose distinguished career in the RAF has given way to a diet of golf and sketchy business meetings. Tom Burke captures the caddish manner of a fallen idol who has slumped into emotional and professional laziness. He’s cruelly insensitive — but retains a faint hint of likeability that makes his callousness feel especially sad.

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Categories Penny Dreadful Print Media Reviews

Compelling, seductive horror: have you been watching Penny Dreadful?

The Introduction of Helen McCrory as a Bewitching Villain

by Gareth McLean |May 19, 2015 | The Guardian

The first series of Penny Dreadful was a bloody mess. No surprise there, you might say. What else is a spooky, sensational Victoriana drama about a possibly-possessed medium, an Quartermain-ish adventurer, an American gun-for-hire who’s secretly a werewolf, and Dr Frankenstein and his many monsters going to be? Throw in a legion of vampires pursuing and being pursued by our heroes – it alternated between chasing and being chased, a bit like the end credits of The Benny Hill Show – and it’s not exactly a recipe for Downton Abbey.

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Categories Medea Reviews

Medea Review – Clenched and Forceful

Helen McCrory delivers a majestic performance as the vengeful protagonist in Ben Power’s new version of Euripides’ play

Susannah Clap | July 26, 2014 | The Guardian

Helen McCrory
                                       Helen McCrory as Medea. Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian

We are living in an age of astonishing female actors. Of course, the great pity is that audiences rarely have the chance to see any of those over 60, though Eileen Atkins is – hurrah – appearing at Stratford this autumn. Meanwhile, younger generations are in mighty form this week.

Helen McCrory is at the peak of her power. She is a marvelous Medea. When she first enters in combat trousers, scrubbing at her teeth as if they were enemies, her voice is deep and guttural. Each syllable seems to have been wrenched from her insides. She goes up a register and tightens her delivery once she has fixed on her terrible plan: to revenge her husband by killing her children. It is as if she is relieved to have reached the moment of greatest desperation.

McCrory has always been a gracefully physical actor, whether sauntering in white lace towards the samovar in Uncle Vanya or jagged with boredom in Simon Gray’s The Late Middle Classes. She is fluent in different kinds of movement here, too: wild as she squats to haul things up from an underworld source, slinky and knowing as she meets her ex-husband in a surprising kiss, defiant as she squares up to the world with her plans. Yet it is the range of her voice that is so extraordinary, and that lets you into the centre of her despair. There is, after all, no surer symptom of depression than vocal flatness.

McCrory manages to suggest that her murders are a way of hurting herself. Yet she does not go all the way down this fashionable path. She may be a victim, but she is also a shaman. Elsewhere, Carrie Cracknell’s production quakes with female rage and powerlessness. Tom Scutt’s revealing design sets a fairytale wild wood, bristling with twisted branches, at the back of the stage. A chorus in Horrocks frocks is lined up above the action like bridesmaids. As these women question Medea’s account of herself, they begin to twitch and to jerk like mannequins moved by an unseen hand. This is rather too modishly influenced by the dance of Pina Bausch, yet it adds one more tremor of malaise. When Medea sends her husband’s new wife a dress drenched in poison, the young woman appears behind a transparent screen performing a dance of death, as if trying to pull herself out of her own lethal skin.

Ben Power’s new version is clenched and forceful. It does not have the brave beauty of Robin Robertson’s 2008 translation, in which the gods “turn the bright air black”. It does have power: its short lines are like splinters.