Don’t miss A DAY BY THE SEA at Southwark Playhouse

It is a fine day in May, 1953.

A work-obsessed diplomat based in Paris makes a rare visit to his mother, who lives at the beautiful family home in Dorset. He is disconcerted to find an old childhood friend also visiting with her children, her life now blighted by scandal. His mother, heartily sceptical about politicians meddling in foreign affairs, would like him to calm down and get married. A family picnic on the beach might be just the thing but even there a work colleague brings him news he had not expected to hear.

Do we always see the past through rose-tinted spectacles? If, after years dominated by his work, he can discover what really matters in life, can he get it? Can we? A Day by the Sea, hugely popular in its time, asks this very question.

N.C. Hunter the “English Chekhov” was swept aside, along with Coward and Rattigan, by the Angry Young Men in the 1950’s. Coward and Rattigan are now often performed, and Hunter’s humane and intelligent comedies are long overdue for rediscovery.

Two’s Company’s speciality is to bring back forgotten theatrical masterpieces into the light. One thing that delights us about the plays we choose is the way writing from earlier times reflects on our own. London Wall, for example, was set in a solicitor’s office and showed in various ways how women were treated in the workplace in the 1930’s. It was illuminating to see how sexual harassment has changed and how it has not. Several of our other plays have dealt with the contradictions of war and its consequences, including our most recent show, The Fifth Column by Ernest Hemingway, where the complexity, cruelty, idealism and corruption of the Spanish Civil War have echoes in conflicts to this day.

A DAY BY THE SEA is no exception: the self-importance of politicians and the widespread scepticism about their performance is a definite theme of modern life, and press intrusion into private conduct also resonates today. But overall it is the outrageous neglect of such a beautiful piece of work which motivates us to bring it forward again.

A Day By The Sea plays at Southwark Playhouse until 28 October 2017