On a scorching hot day, where better to hide than in a shade of a theatre? Well, on the 22nd of July I enjoyed an evening of drama at the Lace Market Theatre to watch a sold-out production of Terence Rattigan’s Cause Celebre, directed by Gordon Parsons. I had heard great reviews, so naturally I was intrigued and excited – and fortunately, I was not disappointed!
This play plunges you into the real life 1930s trial of Alma Rattenbury (played by Tamzin Grayson) and her teenage lover George Wood (Aaron Connelly). Their case revolved around the murder of Alma’s elderly husband Francis Rattenbury (Geoff Longbottom), only the play also adds a sub-plot of Edith’s Davenport’s (Sarah Taylor) failing marriage and separation to husband John (David Dunford). Edith fears the trial will influence her impressionable son Tony (Sam Howitt), something not much helped by her “friend” Stella Morrison (Kay Haw).
Originally a radio play, Cause Celebre was wonderfully adapted for the stage and brilliantly executed by a talented team of actors and crew. All performed in one main set, a living room designed by Peter Hillier, the scene also included courtroom furniture in foreground, but this by no means disrupted or broke the steady transition between each scene. The script’s movement between flash-backs and flash-forwards was also smartly executed, and wonderfully allowed the audience to peep into the case and apply their own conclusions.
The acting definitely left an indelible impression too, with memorable performances being generously offered up by Tamzin Grayson as Alma and Aaron Connelly as George. The former showed a brilliant range, repeatedly shifting from fun loving giggler to a heart-broken abject and breaking the audience’s heart (depending on their ultimate verdict of course). Similarly, Aaron’s rapidly changing character left the audience questioning the jury and themselves.
However, as with all good dramas, there was also a need for comic relief, and the cast did not fail to provide it! Especially characters such as Randolph Browne (played by Sophie Owen), who filled in as the young friend of Tony Davenport (Sam Howitt). These two’s quick-fire duologue never failed to leave the audience in giggles, and we also cannot forget good old O’Connor (Piotr Wisniewski), whose memorable defence and passion as a lawyer in the case created some great moments within the play.
Their joint performances definitely left me intrigued and asking, ‘Who murdered Mr Rattenbury?’ And what’s more, director Gordon Parsons also cleverly used the audience as the jury, which really made you feel intensely involved in the drama. All in all, I think I’d have to go as far as to say that this was a highlight of all the Lace Market Theatre productions I have seen this year! It left me feeling entertained yet curious to find out more! This production of Cause Celebre runs until the 24th of July, and was a triumph!