Today is Tennessee Williams’ 100th birthday and his works are being justly celebrated. But that other closeted centenarian playwright, Terrence Rattigan, whose 100th would have been in June, is already being fêted. The previews are already underway for London’s Old Vic production of Cause Célèbre; it opens on Tuesday with Anne-Marie Duff, who talked today with The Times:
Theatre is where my heart lies, so that’s always a stronger temptation for me over TV or film.
After I had my son, I was umming and erring about what to do next. It was like there was a wrestling match in my belly, it was hard to leave him at home. Then this script came through the door and it was a no-brainer. Theatre is where my heart lies, so that’s always a stronger temptation for me over TV or film.
I read some Rattigan at drama school, but I hadn’t heard of Cause Célèbre. Although the play is set in 1934 and 1935, it was written in 1977, so it’s more daring than a lot of plays about the Thirties. The Seventies were post-sexual revolution and post-punk. The young male characters talk openly about sex. A person like Alma, who I play, was very liberated, but it wasn’t the norm for women to behave like she did, or so we are led to believe.
The Thirties is a glorious time to peep into, with its style and history. Most of our audience will be coming to the era with fresh eyes, which gives us a bit of freedom. At first Alma is a fabulous butterfly, but as she moves from the domestic world to a terrifying legal one, her wings are slowly clipped. She goes from being utterly liberated to being utterly straitjacketed. But that’s Rattigan for you — he loves matters of life and death and sex.”