Deep Blue Sea

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A: Terence Rattigan Pf: 1952, London Pb: 1952 G: Drama in 3 acts S: London flat, c.1950 C: 5m, 3fHester Collyer lives separated from her husband, Judge Sir William Collyer, in quite basic accommodation in London. Her relationship with her younger live-in lover Freddie Page, an ex-RAF pilot, is very turbulent, and she is saved from suicide only by the intervention of a neighbour. She tried to kill herself, she explains, because the ‘deep blue sea’ looked more inviting than the ‘devil’. Shaken by this and convinced too that there is no future for them together, Freddie plans to take a job abroad as a test pilot, even though he is now drinking heavily. Hester begs him to stay, but Freddie declares that he can no longer bear to make her unhappy: ‘I'm not a sadist.’ Sir William comes and asks Hester to come back to him, but she cannot face going back to the boredom of her marriage. About to put her head in the gas oven again, another neighbour, the struck-off doctor Miller, intervenes. Although he cannot promise her hope, he teaches her how she can live, as he has learned to do, without any hope but also ‘without despair’. When Freddie unexpectedly calls to say goodbye, Hester has regained her equanimity and self-respect.

A: Terence Rattigan Pf: 1952, London Pb: 1952 G: Drama in 3 acts S: London flat, c.1950 C: 5m, 3f

Generally accounted Rattigan's greatest play, this piece explores the emotional twists of an unhappy, almost obsessive relationship, but, as usual with Rattigan, offers a mildly optimistic conclusion (the ‘deep blue sea’ suggesting the uncharted future into which Hester finally launches herself). The depiction of Hester and Freddie's relationship may have been a coded portrayal of a homosexual affair, but this insight is not necessary to appreciate the qualities of this well-crafted and intense drama.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).

Reference entries

Terence Rattigan (1911—1977) playwright

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