Review: Talking Scarlet’s production of In Praise Of Love

In Praise Of Love at Chesterfield's Pomegranate Theatre, featuring George Telfer, John Hester, Jo Castleton and Griffin Steven, left to right.

In Praise Of Love at Chesterfield's Pomegranate Theatre, featuring George Telfer, John Hester, Jo Castleton and Griffin Steven, left to right.

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Take a traditional playwright at the height of his powers, and add a small theatre company at the height of theirs. The result is theatre magic of a kind that doesn’t happen often.

And it’s happening at the Pomegranate this week. The play is Terence Rattigan’s In Praise of Love; the company is Talking Scarlet.

In brief, it’s a family drama set in the 1970s. Lydia is terminally ill, and dare not tell her emotionally and domestically inept husband Sebastian or their son Joey, so she confides in Mark, an old family friend.

It’s Rattigan, so there’s much, much more than this. The play asks tough questions about relationships, honesty, principles and family, and there’s a strong political strand. Under Patric Kearns’s subtle direction, Talking Scarlet turn it all into a tour de force which held the first night audience engaged and involved from start to finish.

Mainly it’s down to four first-class performances. Jo Castleton is Lydia, mainly calm and rational, occasionally volatile. John Hester is Mark, expansive, good-natured and clear-sighted. Griffin Stevens is Joey, a sensitive young man with his own world view.

Top honours go to George Telfer as Sebastian, self-absorbed, bombastic and with an upper lip so stiff it could crack at any moment – and when it does, we see what a fine actor George is.

In Praise of Love is the second in the Pomegranate’s Spring Play Season which concludes next week. It runs until Saturday, February 1, – and I challenge anyone to leave the theatre with dry eyes.

LYNNE PATRICK