★★★★★ | Accolade, St James Theatre

London, 1950: Private and public worlds collide when on New Year’s Day author Will Trenting’s knighthood attracts the glare of the British press. Happily married novelist, Will, has been leading a double life. Drawn to the seedier side of life, he’s been mixing with London’s ‘low-life’ and indulging in debauched sex parties and drunken debauchery. Will is forced to battle against the exposure of his secret life, its effect on his family and friends and the double standards of a society bent on destroying him.

Rising star Director Blanche McIntyre (Best Director 2013, UK Theatre Awards) directs Emlyn Williams’ tale of sex, scandal and blackmail. As relevant now as when it first shocked audiences in 1950, this gripping thriller was awarded Time Out’s Best Off West End Production and three Off West End awards including Best Production when it was presented at the Finborough Theatre in 2011.

Playwright Emlyn Williams was openly bisexual, balancing his marriage and family life with a series of flings. Coming out as bisexual ahead of most of his contemporaries, Williams’ play echoes his own private life. Surprisingly, the play passed the strict censorship rules of the early 1950s and still retains a freshness and salacious yet sympathetically drawn power to shock in 2014. This is a superior play and a worthy revival of a piece that was sadly neglected and mostly forgotten for many years. Shades of Coward and Rattigan exist but this play has a daring boldness that wasn’t always evident in works of the era.

The staging and cast are pitch perfect with no weak links in the powerful nine-person line-up. The versatile set invokes the feel of the early 1950s and manages to echo the play as the walls slowly close in along with the world Trenting inhabits.

I’d heartily recommend catching this rare gem at the St James Theatre.

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Accolade runs until the 13th of December 2014

Buy tickets here: http://www.stjamestheatre.co.uk/theatre/accolade/

by Chris Bridges