French Without Tears


French Without Tears with (left to right) Joe Eyre, Florence Roberts and Ziggy Heath. Photo by: The Other Richard 

French Without Tears: Lighthouse, Poole (Wednesday 9th November 2016)

This was the play that, in 1936, propelled the young Terence Rattigan to early success. Rattigan would go on to become one of the most popularplaywrights of the mid 20th century penning such respected dramas as The Winslow Boy, The Browning Version and The Deep Blue Sea. But it was French Without Tears that put him on the theatrical map and marked him out as singular talent with a superb eye for observation. 

It is good to see this astute comedy, set across the channel in a pre-war crammer where a group of upper middle class Englishmen are struggling to learn French in a desperate bid to boost their careers, getting a rare revival. A talented cast directed by Paul Miller make the very most of Rattigan’s  exploration of the English male abroad, behaving like naughty schoolboys and terrified by the attentions of a young temptress.

There’s some marvellous acting, particularly from Joe Eyre as Kit Neilan, a young wannabe diplomat and Tim Delap as uptight Naval Commander Bill Rogers. The students of Monsieur Maingot’s language school are hapless individuals in a complete tizzy over the attentions of the vampish Diana Lake (Florence Roberts) but oblivious to real romance when they see it.

Distressed by their confusion they resolve to get blind drunk at a fancy dress ball leading to a wonderful scene of post party chaos. Eventually they realise that French isn’t the language they must learn. They need to understand the the language of love too.

It was nice to see this play being staged in Poole. Rattigan knew this part of the south coast well. Two of his best known work, Separate Tables and Cause Celebre, are set, at least in part, in nearby Bournemouth.

*French Without Tears runs at Lighthouse, Poole, until Saturday 12th November.

Jeremy Miles

© Jeremy Miles 2022