Plenty, Chichester Festival Theatre: Review

Rachael Stirling in Plenty at Chichester Festival Theatre
Rachael Stirling in Plenty at Chichester Festival Theatre

David Hare’s Plenty caused quite the stir when it was first staged in the late 70s.

The story of Susan who found herself in war and then lost that sense of self in the return to normality touched a nerve and now, as we remember D-Day, it seems a sensible time to return to the play.

In post-war London Susan finds herself married to Raymond Brock, a civil servant she initially meets in Brussels. Rory Keenan paints a picture of Brock as a man who is head over heels for Susan but never sure why, his eventual eruption over her behaviour was, for me at least, the only true emotion of the play.

Elsewhere we meet ambassadors, civil servants and her friend Alice, a drifter who seems permanently attached to the couple, none of them characters the audience can warm to.

Rachael Stirling gives a fine performance in the leading role; building to eruptions of grief, purposely baiting Brock’s bosses over Suez. She’s never really served by the material though. It doesn’t help that some of her most important dialogue is thrown away as a recording to cover a scene change.

This use of dialogue and projection distracts and, added to the inconsistency of tone as we go on Susan’s journey, suggests director Kate Hewitt lacked a clear vision for the piece.

This, we’re told, is a modern classic. For the life of me I have no idea why and the hard work of the cast can do nothing to dissuade me.

Matt Merritt