Set in 1944 London, Terence Rattigan’s Less Than Kind unravels around Sir John (James Wilby) and Mrs Brown (Sara Crowe), two independent adults who have found scandalous love amongst war torn Britain. When war-widow Mrs Brown’s son Michael (David Osmond) returns, the household is thrown into a frenzy of politics, anger, and conspiracy. Directing one of the first performances of this play in over 60 years, Adrian Brown shows us the elegance of the upper class on a back drop of political and domestic turmoil – without pushing the point of either war nor peace, Brown manages to build the household situation until its amusing conclusion with wit and intelligence.
James Wilby played with strength and sincerity, making Sir John and uncomplicated, straight forward character who only wishes to spend life with the one he loves, not get caught up in the games of her riled son. Though a little flat at points, Sara Crowe is a resigned war widow finding happiness in the arms of a millionaire – but never once did Crowe play this in a shallow way, but rather with a slightly confused but instinctively maternal slant. As the young and self-important Michael, David Osmond held his own with a broody performance, carrying a childlike protection that worked so well against Crow and Wilby. His shifting moods were both relatable and understandable, whilst his pretentious manner created many laughs amongst the audience.
Amy Yardley’s set was simple but effective in this realistic piece – the large living room of Sir John’s house contrasted with the demure flat in act two which also sought to highlight the comedy within Michael’s relationship later in the play.
With simplicity and observation, Less Than Kind is a wartime play that is both humorous and thought provoking, challenging political ideas without overstepping the mark, but ultimately portraying a love story in a time not too dissimilar to our own. An uncomplicated and feel-good show that would prove nostalgic to the older generation and amusing to the young.