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Man and Boy

Terrence Rattigan
Duchess
(2005)

Man and Boy publicity image

Terence Rattigan was a very successful playwright who has gone out of fashion and therefore any revival of one of his works is to be welcomed.

Man and Boy looks at the career of Gregor Antonescu, a man who seems to have much in common with Citizen Kane and, rather more surprisingly in view of the fact that the play was written in 1963, even more with Robert Maxwell.

It is set in 1934 in a small, shabby apartment in Greenwich Village, designed by Simon Higlett. This is the home of bar pianist Basil Anthony, initially seen having just left the arms of his actress girlfriend.

A quick sight of a newspaper is enough to change both of their lives, probably forever. "The greatest financier in the world" and "the man who rescued Europe" in 1926, the aforementioned Mr Antonescu is now in freefall and could well take the economies of several countries with him.

It soon becomes clear why this should have had such a dramatic effect on young Basil, played by Ben Silverstone, a real matinee idol in the making. Antonescu is the father whom he still loves despite having run out on him, after firing a shot over his head, five years before.

On his first entrance, marshalled by the rather sinister Sven (well played by David Yelland), the great man looks like an upmarket version of Hercule Poirot. This should not be a shock since the part has been taken by David Suchet, making a welcome stage return.

Immediately, he takes over the apartment and begins to set up a sting that he hopes will force the CEO of American Electrics to continue with a temporarily abandoned takeover. Suddenly, the grubby apartment has become a centre of high finance.

The CEO, Colin Stinton's Mark Herris, seems a cool cookie but far too quickly finds himself on the back foot. It doesn't help that his chief accountant appears to have completely misunderstood a set of Rumanian accounts. This reviewer, for his sins, knows what an accountant looks like and this gibbering wreck is not it.

Similarly, it is not all that likely that Herris would have been implicated in a homosexual suicide and, so soon afterwards, succumb to Basil, presented as his father's catamite.

The business over, the next arrival at the busy apartment is the young wife of the financier, weighed down by jewellery and with a fur that exactly matches her hair colour. She turns out to be none too English, bright and greedy.

Finally, the game collapses as hundreds of crimes crowd in on Antonescu leaving him only two choices, escape or suicide.

This production of Man and Boy suggests that the play is not terribly strong and is not helped by Maria Aitken's direction. David Suchet is impressive as a man slowly accepting that his dominance of people and money must finally be relinquished but also as somebody who desperately needs reconciliation with the son whom he persuaded to desert him. Otherwise, despite a sometimes interesting plot, the slow pace and downbeat atmosphere are hard to overcome.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher