Deborah Hay and Patrick Galligan get close in After The Dance.
AFTER THE DANCE By Terence Rattigan, directed by Christopher Newton (Shaw). At the Royal George, Niagara-on-the-Lake. In rep to October 5. $25-$89, stu/srs discounts. See Out of Town. Rating: NNN
Few directors can tease out the nuances behind British reserve as well as Christopher Newton.
He's done a marvellous job with Terence Rattigan's rarely staged After The Dance, set just before the Second World War and peopled by a jaded, party-mood London society set.
David (Patrick Galligan), a well-to-do alcoholic whose goal is to write a little-needed book about a centuries-old Neapolitan ruler, maintains a household that includes his wife, Joan (Deborah Hay), Peter, a poor and naive relative who works as his secretary (Ken James Stewart), and John, a wittily perceptive, permanent house guest who describes himself as the family's court jester and sponge (Neil Barclay).
All's fine, at least on the surface, for these people - a generation ignorant of the changing world order, socially and politically - who seem to live the high life 24/7 and deal only in superficial matters. But then the crush on David that Peter's girlfriend, Helen (Marla McLean), has been nursing turns into full-fledged romance. It takes a tragic act to shake the characters - some of them only temporarily - out of their comfortable, liquor-filled routines.
Newton and the always strong Shaw ensemble probe the results of David's new affections in a household where actual emotions aren't discussed. There's lots of subtextual depth, from Helen's insensitivity to Joan's buried love, from David's blindness about the others' feelings to Peter's youthful pain.
The standouts here are Hay, whose face swims with conflicting emotions, and Barclay, whose sardonic John finally realizes his jokes are a way of avoiding a meaningful life. Both are sad, upsetting figures whose melancholic discovery of their wasted years contrasts with the brightness of their dialogue.