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THE RAT TRAP

by Noёl Coward
Directed by Tim Luscombe
Designed by Chrystine Bennett
Sound by Crispin Anderson
Lighting by Hansjörg Schmidt
Presented by the finboroughtheatre

The Cast:
Olive - Federay Holmes
Sheila - Catherine Hamilton
Keld - Gregory Finnegan
Edmund - Steven O’Neill
Naomi - Kathryn Sumner
Burridge - Heather Chasen
Ruby Raymond - Olivia Darnley

[ forgotten voices season 2006 ]
Noёl Coward’s first play in its first production for 80 years

Time Out Critics' Choice

28 November – 23 December 2006

“I felt, for the first time with genuine conviction, that I could really write plays…I do not believe that it has ever been done since its original production, even by amateurs, which is a pity, as I would love to see it.” - Noёl Coward

Written when Coward was only 19, The Rat Trap is the story of a novelist, Sheila, and her playwright husband, Keld. While Sheila struggles to reconcile marriage and career, and Keld attempts to balance popular success with the pressures of monogamy, professional jealousy threatens to destroy their relationship forever. Full of Coward’s usual wit and merciless banter, The Rat Trap is a moving – and startlingly resonant - exploration of the timeless struggles of marriage.

Sir Noёl Coward (1899-1973). Actor, playwright, screenwriter, composer, lyricist, artist, novelist, short story writer, poet, cabaret artist. Plays include The Vortex, Hay Fever, Easy Virtue, Bitter Sweet, Private Lives, Fallen Angels, Cavalcade, Design for Living, Tonight At 8.30, This Happy Breed, Present Laughter, Blithe Spirit, Sail Away, Nude With Violin and A Song at Twilight. His screenplays include In Which We Serve and Brief Encounter. His songs include Don’t Put Your Daughter on the Stage, Mrs Worthington and Mad Dogs and Englishmen. As an actor, appearances include The Italian Job and Our Man in Havana.

Director Tim Luscombe’s productions have been seen in the West End, all over the UK, On and Off Broadway, as well in the Netherlands, Sweden and Japan. His London directing credits include Noёl Coward’s Easy Virtue (Garrick) and Private Lives (Aldwych), Artist Descending A Staircase (Duke of York’s), The Browning Version and Harlequinade (Royalty), EuroVision (Vaudeville), and Relative Values (Savoy). Tim is also well known as a playwright. His plays include EuroVision (Vaudeville), The One You Love (Royal Court) and The Schuman Plan (Hampstead Theatre). Tim was nominated for an Olivier Award for his direction of Easy Virtue and The Browning Version/Harlequinade.

Heather Chasen received a Tony nomination for her performance in A Severed Head on Broadway. Other credits include Hotel Paradiso with Frankie Howerd, Call Me Jackie with Sybil Thorndike, Picture of Innocence with Robert Morley, playing Valerie Pollard in Crossroads and as all the female characters in The Navy Lark. Recent credits include 10 Times Table (Theatre Royal, Windsor) and My Three Angels (Mill at Sonning); Olivia Darnley has most recently appeared with Judi Dench in Peter Hall's production of Hay Fever, as Raina in Arms and the Man for Salisbury Playhouse and on tour, as Sybil in Thea Sharrock's production of Private Lives and Hero in Peter Hall's production of Much Ado about Nothing; Gregory Finnegan has most recently played the lead in Rattigan’s French Without Tears (The Mill at Sonning); Catherine Hamilton has just played the lead in the Orange Tree’s acclaimed production of Harley Granville Barker’s The Madras House; Federay Holmes’ credits include Chichester, Harrogate and Ipswich; Steven O’Neill’s recent theatre includes the Royal Shakespeare Company, Birmingham Rep, West Yorkshire Playhouse and the Manchester Library Theatre; Guildhall School graduate Kathryn Sumner’s credits include work at Salisbury Playhouse and the Gate Theatre Dublin.

The Press on Tim Luscombe
“Luscombe is a major talent with a wonderful feel for atmosphere” New York Post
“Tim Luscombe’s faultless production” The Independent
“Tim Luscombe’s brilliant production” The Observer
“Tim Luscombe’s immaculate production” Telegraph

The Press on The Rat Trap

Time Out Critics' Choice

**** Four Stars Time Out

**** Four Stars Sunday Telegraph

"On stage in the West End at the Finborough Theatre after 80 years offstage"
Evening Standard ES Magazine

“Heroic effort by a young Coward...Written in 1918, when he was only 18 and not revived since a brief London run in 1926, Noel Coward's The Rat Trap is an absolute revelation.” Nicholas de Jongh, Evening Standard

“Tim Luscombe’s revival for the Finborough’s Forgotten Voices season makes for a most rewarding evening”
Jeremy Kingston, The Times

“This may be Coward juvenilia, but for sheer energy, engrossing performances and entertainment value the production knocks spots off almost every other straight play in London at the moment, and is sure to lead to further revivals or, better still, a transfer.”
John Thaxter, British Theatre Guide

“It’s certainly worth catching Tim Luscombe’s excellent production, unless you want to wait another 90 years for the chance.”
Alastair Smith, The Stage

“Tim Luscombe’s intense production makes ideal use of the Finborough’s tiny round space” Caroline McGinn, Time Out

“The rich entertainment provided by Tim Luscombe's production.”
Michael Billington, The Guardian

“Played in the round on the tightest of spaces, Luscombe and his cast vividly re-create an unjustly forgotten drama that is both like and interestingly unlike the plays that followed.”
Jeremy Kingston, The Times

“The [ forgotten voices season ]…This first time revival of 1926 Noel Coward play The Rat Trap is undoubtedly one of its high points...It provides some wonderful moments of theatre, especially in its more argumentative passages”
Alastair Smith, The Stage

“There hasn’t been anything twee or stuffy about any of the season of Forgotten Voices. They all demand to be heard, for their style, their wit, their unquenchable curiosity about people.”
C J Sheridan, Rogues and Vagabonds

“With aphoristic, witty shafts…Coward reminds us how the pleasures of free-love and adultery were lavishly sampled before London's naughty 1920s.”
Nicholas de Jongh, Evening Standard

“A fascinating revival...very interesting and well worth seeing...It is an astonishingly accomplished and psychologically mature work” C J Sheridan, Rogues and Vagabonds

“Its post-mortem of the death of creative love in marriage is shocking and pertinent”
Caroline McGinn, Time Out

“This is the first play Coward wrote, in 1918, when he was no older than the century…the marital troubles of his central couple show a firm grasp of the realities and an instinct for how to dramatise them.”
Jeremy Kingston, The Times

“This very interesting play. I applaud the Finborough for having released it from obscurity and Tim Luscombe for his brilliant direction… Anyone who is interested in Theatre should go and see it and so should those who aren’t – it is an opportunity to relish a piece of theatrical history which should not be missed.”
David Munro, IndieLondon.com

“Tim Luscombe’s fluid direction, which carefully balances stylish comedy of manners with truthful emotional psychology”
C J Sheridan, Rogues and Vagabonds

“Staged in the round, the actors barely inches from some of the audience, it proves an intense experience and the cast do not disappoint even at such close quarters.”
Alastair Smith, The Stage

“Catherine Hamilton, a fascinating find recently seen in The Madras House at the Orange Tree, conveys Sheila’s mixed emotions with beautifully expressive eyes and a controlled but thrilling vocal delivery”
John Thaxter, British Theatre Guide

“Catherine Hamilton is a real find as Sheila”
Michael Billington, The Guardian

“Catherine Hamilton’s Sheila becomes increasingly moving and real”
Jeremy Kingston, The Times

“Well led by Catherine Hamilton and Gregory Finnegan as the central pair”
Alastair Smith, The Stage

“Gregory Finnegan…an attractive, forceful portrayal”
John Thaxter, British Theatre Guide

“The supporting cast is equally strong...A dashing Sapphic performance by Federay Holmes” John Thaxter, British Theatre Guide

“Played with delicious wickedness and bang in period by Olivia Darnley”
C J Sheridan, Rogues and Vagabonds

“The throwaway wit and flyaway gestures of Federay Holmes’s Olive”
Jeremy Kingston, The Times

“The casting of Federay Holmes as the couple’s progressive friend Olive brings the androgynous elegance of Coward’s mature persona into his youthful play - her languid drawl and her judgments are ahead of their time but, like Coward’s wit, are compassionate and candid as well as oblique.”
Caroline McGinn, Time Out

“Kathryn Sumner is radiantly beautiful in Grecian splendour as the mellifluously voiced Bohemian writer Naomi”
C J Sheridan, Rogues and Vagabonds

“Heather Chasen and Olivia Darnley’s vivid characterizations”
C J Sheridan, Rogues and Vagabonds

“The production’s highlights come from the well-realised supporting cast - Federay Holmes’ gossip journalist, acting as Sheila’s confidante, Olivia Darnley as the coquette who convinces Keld to play away and Heather Chasen’s hugely entertaining…servant.” Alastair Smith, The Stage

“Even in early Coward, the minor figures also possess an abundant life neatly caught by Olivia Darnley as a predatory ex-chorus girl and Heather Chasen as a trundling maid announcing "marriage is a snare".” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“Sublimely recreated by Heather Chasen in a classic comedy maid performance that should be enshrined for its focus, reality and timing”
C J Sheridan, Rogues and Vagabonds

“As the shrewd, down-to-earth maid, Heather Chasen shuffles around in lace-up shoes and a grim cardigan almost down to her knees, while wearing an expression of determined inscrutability. Her magnificent vintage performance - quiet, truthful, comic - is the evening's authentic Cowardian delight.”
Nicholas de Jongh, Evening Standard

“Heather Chasen as Burrage the maid, put upon and put down, gave the usual splendid supporting performance we have come to expect from this very accomplished actress.” David Munro, IndieLondon.com

“The performance of the evening is a sly turn by Heather Chasen, with little more than forty lines or so, playing the shrewd, long-suffering cook Burrage, an Edwardian relic with a cut-glass accent that renders ‘marriage’ as ‘merridge’ to devastating comedy effect, while managing to tell her innermost thoughts with the merest flicker of an eyelid. Do catch this superb veteran at the top of her form.”
John Thaxter, British Theatre Guide

“These rediscoveries open your mind to all sorts of connected historical facts that it’s impossible not to be intrigued by; it’s a sort of living theatre museum; a cabinet of treasures from the theatre of the recent past, the past that our theatrical consciousness is built on”
C J Sheridan, Rogues and Vagabonds

“Unseen in London since 1926, this early Noel Coward play is something of a turn-up for the books. Coward wrote it when he was 18, but already you see him, as a precocious stripling, sketching out the theme that was to haunt his later work: the idea that talent is best fulfilled by shedding emotional commitments...What is fascinating is detecting hints of the Coward to come. The battle of the two fractious egotists clearly anticipates the cushion-throwing tantrums of Elyot and Amanda in Private Lives…Coward also prefigures his later ability to give life to eccentrically named off-stage characters: we never see Clara Dewlap or Evangeline Featherstone, but we believe in them.”
Michael Billington, The Guardian

 

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