Helen and McCrory and Tom Burke star in this riveting production of Terence Rattigan’s play.

This latest production to be shown as part of the National Theatre’s series of plays to be shown on Youtube is this subtle but immensely heart wrenching production of Terence Rattigan’s The Deep Blue Sea.

Directed with great poignancy by Carrie Cracknell, the play follows the story of Hester Collyer who is desperately unhappy having left her wealthy and upstanding husband William for the impulsive former pilot Freddie. As the story of her relationships with both men unfold, its themes of loneliness and the cost of passion are beautifully explored through Cracknell’s subtle and thought-provoking production.

From the very beginning when Hester’s neighbours discover her in the aftermath of her suicide attempt, there is a real sense of urgency and franticness that runs consistently throughout the play and production that reflects the character’s state of mind vividly as she continuously tries to cover up the cracks in her relationship with Freddie. Through her production, Cracknell manages to uncover the deep layers of all the characters – but in particular Hester, whose loneliness and isolation from everyone is painful to watch.

This is of course also largely down to Helen McCrory’s balanced and heartfelt performance that reveals a character who feels defined by her relationships with her ex-husband and new partner. This is highlighted in the final scene that she has with Mr Miller who wants to buy a painting of hers but she wants to gift it to him – showing how little worth she feels she has. McCrory’s vulnerability in this scene is utterly heartbreaking and poignant. It is truly memorable performance.

Elsewhere, she has great support from Nick Fletcher as the dry but well meaning Mr Miller. Fletcher perfectly offers a character who is a reliable and unexpected source of comfort from the loneliness that she feels. Tom Burke is also on sharp form as impulsive but self-destructing Freddie and Peter Sullivan as the frustrated husband still in love with Hester offers a strong performance.

With the help of Tom Schutt’s impressive set design that is highlighted by Guy Hoare’s atmospheric lighting, this whole production is a haunting experience to watch unfold, with the loneliness felt by Hester tangible throughout – this is very much Helen McCory’s show.

By Emma Clarendon

The Deep Blue Sea is available to watch through the National Theatre’s Youtube channel until the 16th July.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐