The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings








Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp London London Review
After the Dance

You are a seriously minded little thing — Joan to Peter
After the Dance
Nancy Carroll as Joan and Benedict Cumberbatch as David (Photo: Johan Persson)
Terence Rattigan wrote some wonderful plays but apart from a few which are frequently produced — Separate Tables, The Browning Version, The Deep Blue Sea and The Winslow Boy— there are others which are seen all too rarely. In 2011, the centenary of Rattigan's birth, some special events are planned including a new film adaptation by Terence Davies of The Deep Blue Sea, but this year the National Theatre revives his 1939 play After the Dance set on the eve of the Second World War.

The party generation is still in full swing and in the Scott-Fowler household an ever present drinks trolley provides unlimited alcohol for these drinking classes for whom the beautiful things of the 1920s now growing older. Thea Sharrock directs in Hildegarde Bechtler's beautiful, substantial and airy living room set, a large mansion apartment with a wide balcony overlooking the grounds, elegantly lit by Mark Henderson, the sunlight catching the silver cigarette box on the desk.

Joan Scott-Fowler (Nancy Carroll) and David (Benedict Cumberbatch), who has an independent income, have been married for twelve years. David is writing a weak historical biography about King Ferdinand II, "Bomba" of Naples, and he is paying his younger and impoverished cousin Peter (John Hefferman) to act as his secretary. Peter's flirtatious and determined fiancéHelen (Faye Castelow) brings her newly qualified doctor brother George (Giles Cooper) to the flat and wants David to agree to be examined by him. Prissy and pretty, Helen thinks that David is ill with liver disease although he doesn't look very yellow to us. David very reluctantly agrees to see the doctor and actually does give up drink. John Reid (Adrian Scarborough) is another hanger on in the Scott-Fowler household but one who is witty. Joan tells us that she drinks because she is afraid that David might find her boring. There is a tragedy at the end of Act Two which changes everybody's life, a harbinger of the changes the war will make.

The performances are uniformly sound. This is the first role I have seen from Benedict Cumberbatch where I have thought him really grown up, no longer a boy but a man. Nancy Carroll is excellent as his feigned sophisticate wife, pretending not to care about her husband, instead drinking far too much herself to ensure that she is not "boring". There is a tender scene between them at the piano when David plays the 1920s foxtrot love song Avalon but on the whole there is too little connection in this marriage.

We all hated Faye Castelow's Helen, an interfering and controlling young woman who has no qualms about abandoning her fiancéPeter in order to fall in love with someone else's husband. It is here that I start to have doubts about the authenticity of Rattigan's characterisation as there seems to be no sexual passion between David and the younger woman and it is hard to believe why he would have been attracted to her. In fact when she announces that they will be leaving London to live in a country cottage, we can see him visibly shrink from the idea as it dawns on him just what his future might consist of. There is an amusing cameo from Jenny Galloway as the knitting Miss Pike, Peter's secretarial replacement in Act Three.

Adrian Scarborough is tremendously good value as ever, here as John Reid the fool who is wiser than the rest of the cast. He sees Helen for what she is "a romantic little girl's imagination" and tries loyally to support Joan in a heart rending scene. At the end of the play John Reid leaves for the offer of a mundane job in Manchester working for a friend's window cleaning company where there is not much prospect of anyone appreciating his wit. I liked too John Hefferman's secretary although when he returns in Act Three, destitute, it seems overstated.

There has been much attention to period detail on costume. There is a wild party scene fabulously dressed with much posing and talk about drugs and parties. An explicit sex scene and a passing nude party goer seem out of place in a Rattigan play. Despite the parties, there is an overwhelming feeling of emptiness here for this generation trapped between two world wars.

Subscribe to our FREE email updates with a note from editor Elyse Sommer about additions to the website -- with main page hot links to the latest features posted at our numerous locations. To subscribe, E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message -- if you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.
After the Dance
Written by Terence Rattigan
Directed by Thea Sharrock

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Nancy Carroll, Adrian Scarborough
With: John Hefferman, Nicholas Lumley, Faye Castelow, Giles Cooper, Pandora Colin, Lachlan Nieboer, Juliet Howland, Giles Taylor, Richard Teverson, Jenny Galloway, Daniel Gosling, Leo Staar, Hannah Stokeley, Natalie Thomas, Charlotte Thornton
Design: Hildegarde Bechtler
Lighting: Mark Henderson
Sound: Ian Dickinson
Music: Adrian Johnston
Choreographer: Fin Walker
Running time: Three hours with two intervals
Box Office: 020 7452 3000
Booking until 11th August 2010
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 10th June 2010 performance at the Lyttelton, National Theatre, South Bank, London SE1 9PX (Rail/Tube: Waterloo)

Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of After the Dance
  • I disagree with the review of After the Dance
  • The review made me eager to see After the Dance
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email . . . also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

London Theatre Tickets
Lion King Tickets
Billy Elliot Tickets
Mighty Boosh Tickets
Mamma Mia Tickets
We Will Rock You Tickets
Theatre Tickets
London Theatre Walks

Peter Ackroyd's  History of London: The Biography

London Sketchbook

tales from shakespeare
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.
Our Review

©Copyright 2010, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from