This production is also quite a family affair as the stars Corin and Vanessa Redgrave are brother and sister, and Kika Markham is the wife of Corin!
This dark comedy is set in a luxurious hotel in Switzerland in the 1960's. It concerns Hugo Latymer, a famous literary figure, whose reputation is threatened when his former female lover of forty years ago returns with evidence of his homosexual past.
This is one of those plays that starts very slowly and builds up the tension and suspense which has you transfixed waiting for the outcome. It is a beautifully crafted play by Coward that is exquisitely performed by a cast of immense quality. The ever-reliable Vanessa Redgrave is cogent as Carlotta Gray, Hugo's former lover. She is one of Britain's greatest actors and it is always a joy to see her perform on stage as she can play almost any role with superb professionalism. Corin Redgrave, is equally convincing as Hugo Latymer. I have seen Corin on stage quite a few times in recent years, "The General from America" at the Barbican, "HRH" at the Playhouse, "Marat/Sade" and "Not About Nightingales" both at the National. I have to say he is quickly becoming a favourite actor of mine, as he has been impressive in everything I have seen him in. In this play he brilliantly captures the torment of a man struggling to keep his reputation intact. However, the biggest bonus is the performance of Kika Markham as Hugo's wife, Hilde. She outshines both the Redgrave's, and that is an incredible achievement. She is not on stage for very long, a short while at the beginning and at the end, but what a powerful impact she makes. Hilde is first portrayed as subservient to her dominating husband, but we later discover that she is very much in control of their marriage.
The play has received good reviews from the popular press. NICHOLAS DE JONGH of THE EVENING STANDARD says Vanessa Redgrave is "utterly compulsive" as Carlotta, and goes on to say she "acts like a shot of bourbon for Coward's milk water text". BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE of THE TIMES describes Kika Markham as "Excellent", and says, "Vanessa Redgrave boots Coward's Song at Twilight" CHARLES SPENCER of THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "The piece both grips and moves." THE FINANCIAL TIMES says, "Vanessa Redgrave is magnificent as Carlotta, a rather vulgar has-been actress of sixty-something..."
Although this play has a slow first act, it soon hots up after the interval making this a play definitely worth seeing.