THE RATTIGAN VERSION: Sir Terence Rattigan and the Theatre of Character by B.A. Young

THE RATTIGAN VERSION: Sir Terence Rattigan and the Theatre of Character

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Not really a biography at all (let alone ""the authoritative biography"" of the publisher's blurb), this slight volume--by a theater critic and longtime Rattigan chum--is chiefly a play-by-play chat about Rattigan's oeuvre, agreeably unpretentious and occasionally witty but ultimately inconsequential. Young does lightly touch on ""Terry's"" life-history: Harrow/Oxford background; unabashed pursuit of commercial success; depressions and illnesses; low-key but far-from-secret homosexuality. (""Fundamentally it was another example of his inability, or unwillingness, to grow up."") But he is terribly sketchy and sometimes prissily discreet--especially in comparison to the tasteful yet thorough treatment in Darlow & Hodson's Terence Rattigan (1981). As for the interrelationship between Rattigan's private life and his work, Young--again far out-classed by Darlow & Hodson--offers breezy, often inconsistent analysis: he pooh-poohs the emphasis on ""the homosexual element,"" stressing instead the plays' reflection of Rattigan's ""desire to be wanted--not physically but emotionally""; elsewhere, on the other hand, he suggests that Rattigan couldn't ""write convincingly about love between a man and a woman, because this was something he had never known at first hand."" However, while Darlow & Hodson made an unpersuasive attempt at boosting Rattigan's literary status, Young is modest in his claims. Most of the plays--all of which are plot-summarized and analyzed--receive faint praise at best; only the one-acts The Browning Version (""a masterpiece of dramatic magic"") and After Lydia receive all-out endorsements. And, though Young applauds Rattigan's ""theatre sense"" and his gift for middle-class dialogue, the playwright's serious limitations--including his candid catering to the Establishment, to the middle/low-brow taste of ""Aunt Edna""--remain front-and-center throughout. Lightweight treatment of a minor-league playwright--and overshadowed in most respects by the Darlow & Hodson biography.

Pub Date: May 24th, 1988
Publisher: Atheneum