Review: Friday Night Dinner star leads stellar cast at Bath but there’s an even bigger name in the audience

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Tamsin Greig delivers ‘a towering performance’ at the Ustinov Studio

More than 70 years since it was first performed on stage - and two film versions later - Terence Rattigan’s masterpiece The Deep Blue Sea continues to thrill new audiences with each revival.

At Bath’s tiny Ustinov Studio, director Lindsay Posner has assembled a stellar cast, lead by Tamsin Greig (Friday Night Dinner, Green Wing and Sexy Beast) and Oliver Chris (Motherland, The Crown and Maternal). Tickets are, needless to say, like gold dust.

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Set in post-war London, The Deep Blue Sea is the story of Hester Collyer, who has left her judge husband William (played by veteran actor Nicholas Farrell) and is having a reckless affair with Freddie (Oliver Chris), a former RAF fighter pilot who now spends more time drinking than he does flying.

The play is set over the course of 24 hours in the threadbare sitting room where Hester is now staying. The room is in a seedy, low-rent boarding house run by gossipy landlady Mrs Elton (Felicity Montagu from Bridget Jones’s Diary and I’m Alan Partridge). The rent is overdue, the wallpaper is peeling off the grimy walls and the gas meter is off.

Tamsin Greig as Hester Collyer and Oliver Chris as Freddie in The Deep Blue Sea (photo: Manuel Harlan)Tamsin Greig as Hester Collyer and Oliver Chris as Freddie in The Deep Blue Sea (photo: Manuel Harlan)
Tamsin Greig as Hester Collyer and Oliver Chris as Freddie in The Deep Blue Sea (photo: Manuel Harlan) | Tamsin Greig as Hester Collyer and Oliver Chris as Freddie in The Deep Blue Sea (photo: Manuel Harlan)

After a botched suicide attempt, the emotionally fragile Hester sees her relationship with Freddie disintegrate before her eyes as her ex-husband and assorted tenants in the boarding house rally around, trying to make sense of it all.

The themes of social class, repressions and emotional frailty are set against a backdrop of Britain still recovering after the Second World War. 

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Tamsin Greig delivers a towering performance that’s an emotional rollercoaster and it’s hard to take your eyes off her for a second.

Finbar Lynch is superb as deadpan and lugubrious Mr Miller (Photo: Manuel Harlan)Finbar Lynch is superb as deadpan and lugubrious Mr Miller (Photo: Manuel Harlan)
Finbar Lynch is superb as deadpan and lugubrious Mr Miller (Photo: Manuel Harlan) | Manuel Harlan

And Finbar Lynch is superb as deadpan and lugubrious Mr Miller, a tenant and former doctor harbouring his own dark secrets.

For two hours, the audience were completely absorbed by the high quality performances in this polished revival and they were in good company for Sir David Suchet (TV’s Inspector Poirot) was in the stalls and clearly enjoying every minute of this must-see show.

The Deep Blue Sea appears at the Ustinov Studio at the Theatre Royal Bath until Saturday June 1. To book tickets contact the Theatre Royal Bath Box Office on 01225 448844 or book online at theatreroyal.org.uk

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