In celebration of the centenary of Terence Rattigan’s birth, The Old Vic brings his last play to stage. Directed by Thea Sharrock, Cause Célèbre is based on the true story of the notorious murder of Francis Rattenbury in Bournemouth, 1935. The play follows the trial of the middle aged Alma Rattenbury (Anne-Marie Duff) and her 18-year old lover, both accused of his murder. The trial is paralleled with the sub-plot of jury forewoman Edith Davenport (Niamh Cusack), who is sexually repressed and struggling to cope with her divorce.
The events unfold against a stylish 1930s backdrop with an imposing yet impressive set, the two levels of which extend into the audience. Anne-Marie Duff’s performance as the ‘nympho, dipso songwriter’ is streets away from her role as Fiona in Channel 4’s Shameless. Her portrayal is engaging, but we never really know whether we should see her as victim to a dominant lover, or an immoral sexual deviant.
The play is witty and fast paced and an interesting juxtaposition is made between the two lead women. However, I did feel that both women’s plots were somewhat underdeveloped – we never truly understand either of their relationships with the men in their lives. Entertaining and engaging, but by no means the best of Rattigan.
Cause Célèbre runs at the Old Vic until June 11th.
Tickets start at £10