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The River Line, by a forgotten English author, is brought to life by a terrific cast


Charlie Bewley as Major John Lang and Lyne Renée as Marie

I've been trying to simplify a project, and that, as the recently lamented Steve Jobs observed, requires hard work. "But it's worth it in the end because once you get there you can move mountains." He certainly did.

Simplification is my feeble excuse for not posting much recently. But luckily Roger Kuin has handed us an interesting post. He flew in from France to see The River Line and urged us to run to see it.

The River Line is Charles Morgan’s "brilliantly constructed, almost mystical, story of love, guilt and reconciliation at a Gloucestershire dinner party in 1947. The first and third acts are separated by a flashback to a country granary near Toulouse in 1943, where a group of soldiers are following the 'river line' – the clandestine escape route across occupied France. . . That gripping second act [has] a murderous climax".

Jermyn Street Theatre revives forgotten classics. Morgan, once theatre critic for The Times, and a novelist and playwright, has been forgotten with a vengeance, but his newly revived play mesmerises. Roger writes,

Director Anthony Biggs and producer Richard Darbourne have done an astonishing job, with a roughly 24' x 12' stage in a theatre with 70 seats: they have managed to bring Morgan's characters, his plot and his dialogue vividly alive, to make a full house of adults think and feel in equal proportions, and to inspire a group of talented actors with the play's nervous, intellectual and emotional energy so that the production crackles with human electricity.

. . .Christopher Fulford, as Commander Julian Wyburton, while not the tall, commanding figure Morgan surely imagined, is one of the stars of the production. With the power of the unsaid that Anthony Hopkins displayed in 'The Remains of the Day', he combines both an emotional depth and what Morgan would have been happy to see called an essential Englishness that is not only convincing but genuinely moving.

The play's other star is Belgian actress Lyne Renée who, as Marie Chassaigne, the French former Resistance agent and postwar wife of Julian, is nothing short of miraculous. I did not think it possible so perfectly, in 2011, to create the physical persona of a 1940s woman - almost all the attempted imitations ring false. Renée is flawless.

Not only that, her emotional range is nothing short of awesome; and all by herself she gives the lie to the criticism I have read here and there that Morgan never created real women, that all his female characters are shadowy male projections. Here is Mme Renée to prove them wrong.

. . .A surprising treat is Alex Felton as Dick Frewer. Frewer is in many ways a character, young, naive, puppyish in some ways, and a foil for the chief wartime character known as Heron. Yet Felton catches with a rare perfection the mixture of naiveté and perceptiveness, of intensity and inarticulateness, that Morgan gave Frewer, and the real charm and pluck of a now partly vanished public-school type.

'Heron', the beautiful, fascinating, inspiring young officer at the core of the wartime scenes, and in a way the core of the whole play, is played by Charlie Bewley. . ."

Wish we could all take an evening's run to the Jermyn.

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