Nancy Carroll 
Hadley Fraser   Gerald Kyd

The Deep Blue Sea

By Terence Rattigan

Minerva Theatre
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Nancy Carroll is magnificent. A timeless study of the human heart.


This is Rattigan and Chichester at the top of their games.

Evening Standard

Director Paul Foster gives a production of intense, heart-piercing directness.


1951. In a shabby Ladbroke Grove flat, Hester Collyer’s neighbours find her unconscious; she has taken an overdose in front of the gas fire. Their only option is to notify her husband – a pillar of the establishment.

But Hester left her husband the previous year to embark upon a passionate love affair with dashing ex-RAF pilot, Freddie Page. What has happened in her life to make her want to end it? And can she bring herself to go on living?

This searing play takes place over the course of one day, in one room, and offers a devastating examination of the adverse forces of love and solitude. Rattigan based the play in part on the tragic outcome of his own clandestine love affair and created one of the twentieth century’s finest leading roles for a woman.

Paul Foster’s recent directing credits include A Little Night Music at the Watermill and Kiss Me, Kate at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre.

Nancy Carroll received the Olivier and Evening Standard Awards for Best Actress for Rattigan’s After the Dance at the National Theatre; her recent work includes The Moderate Soprano (West End) and Closer (Donmar Warehouse). 

Hadley Fraser last appeared at Chichester in The Pajama Game (2013); his recent stage credits include Saint Joan (Donmar Warehouse). Gerald Kyd appeared at Chichester in The Meeting (2018); his National Theatre work includes Three Winters.

Purchase a digital copy of the programme

Our programmes are designed to be the perfect insightful companion to the production. This programme includes a piece written by Dan Rebellato about the rise and fall and rise of Terrence Rattigan and a piece about the social context of the period in which The Deep Blue Sea was written by Dominic Sandbrook. In addition it includes rehearsal photography, biographies, events and news from the Theatre.

Prologue tickets available from 2 March


Hadley Fraser gives the most moving reading I’ve yet seen of Freddie Page. Peter McKintosh’s clever design speaks eloquent volumes about a war-damaged country full of war-damaged people.

Evening Standard

Nancy Carroll is magnificent. A timeless study of the human heart.


A genuine masterpiece which completely grips from the start. Paul Foster’s compelling, astute production of The Deep Blue Sea is so powerful, so moving and so watchable.

Chichester Observer

Gerald Kyd has a real stage presence, cutting a dash as the discarded husband. Matthew Cottle plays Mr Miller with a seriousness and forbearance that impresses.


One of Rattigan's masterpieces and Paul Foster and his excellent cast do it proud'

Sunday Express

An urgent and relevant study of women’s desires and ambitions. Nancy Carroll has extraordinary intensity. This is a Hester who can make you cry at her agony, but also admire her courage. Hadley Fraser's Freddie is terrific. A moving reminder of exactly why Rattigan's great play has stood the test of time.


Beneath the polite, calm mask Hester wears in company is a raging whirlpool of desperation, despair, hope and lust that Carroll triumphed in harnessing. Gripping to watch. This revival proves you cannot have too much of a good thing.

Portsmouth News

Carroll seizes the lead role with a passion and precision which is nothing short of a triumph.

West Sussex Gazette

An unforgettable, intensely emotional experience, enhanced by the superb and very realistic set by Peter McKintosh. Denise Black in a beautifully comical, yet credible, portrayal of housekeeper Mrs. Elton, Nancy Carroll’s performance as Hester is mesmerising. A masterful production with all the elements coming together to make a magnificent whole and a triumph for director Paul Foster.

British Theatre Guide

Cast & Creatives


Cast List

Nancy Carroll

Hester Collyer

Hadley Fraser

Freddie Page

Gerald Kyd

Sir William Collyer

Denise Black

Mrs Elton

Matthew Cottle

Mr Miller

Ralph Davis

Philip Welch

Laurence Ubong Williams

Jackie Jackson

Helena Wilson

Ann Welch

Creative team

Cast List

Paul Foster


Peter McKintosh


Natasha Chivers

Lighting Designer

Debbie Wiseman


George Dennis

Sound Designer

Charlotte Sutton

Casting Director



Five minutes with Hadley Fraser

We spent five minutes with Hadley Fraser who plays Freddie Page in The Deep Blue Sea, to find out more about why he wanted to be in the play, his favourite moment and why you should come and see it.

How did you come to be involved in this production and what was it that attracted you to the piece?

Director Paul Foster and I worked together briefly last year and I enjoyed that very much, so I was keen to work with him on something more substantial. He kindly sent a message asking if I’d be up for the idea of The Deep Blue Sea and I bit his hand off.

Over and above the widely-acknowledged brilliance of the play, it felt like fate when reading the dedication page of the script I discovered that Rattigan had written the play in the pub where I spent a great deal of my adolescence. I’m not sure he ever ended up tied to a tree outside said pub on his eighteenth birthday but I suppose his reasons for being there lay elsewhere!

You’re equally known for your musical roles; as an actor what is it you’re looking for in your next role?

I find myself looking for the exact opposite of the thing I’ve just done. Doesn’t always work out, isn’t always the best idea and we’re not always blessed with the luxury of choice but I suppose variety is something I value very highly - it can stop you getting lazy.

What is your favourite moment or line in the play?

I like very much the scene between Hester and Miller towards the end of the play, and especially Miller’s line “But the world is a dark enough place for even a little flicker to be welcome."

Why should audiences come and see this production?

For Nancy Carroll's Hester, you just know she’s going to be transfixing.

If you had to sum up the piece in a sentence/three words?

I’ll borrow from Robert Frost - "in three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on."

The Deep Blue Sea runs in the Minerva Theatre from 21 June - 27 July

Q&A with Paul Foster

The original production of The Deep Blue Sea opened in 1952 at the Duchess Theatre in London. Based in part on the tragic outcome of Rattigan’s own love affair, the play created one of the finest leading roles for a woman. We spoke to director Paul Foster about what makes that role so interesting and why he wanted to direct this play. 

What attracted you to this play?

I’ve always loved it. It has so much to tell us about the workings of the human heart. There’s so much that’s held back and damped down, unsaid. That’s great for actors because there’s an element of surface control but beneath it there’s so much passion and turmoil. It’s a gripping story, as well as an extremely moving one. I can’t wait to start.

Hester Collyer is often hailed as one of the finest leading roles for a woman – what is it about Hester that makes her so interesting?

Her complexity. It’s a real workout for an actress. She has this well-bred, composed demeanour which masks the fact that her world has been turned upside down by the strength of her passion for this younger man. She battles with what the conventions of the time expect and demand of her and the competing claim of her sexual hunger for Freddie. You look at the parts which women are so often asked to play – and they’re usually the adjunct of a man who is more central to the plot. Here, Rattigan has Hester, her self-identity and her dilemma be the engine of the whole narrative. People are viewed in relation to her. She is the first and the last person we see; we root for her and trace the course of her journey. Peggy Ashcroft, who created the role in the premiere, said that she felt like she was “walking around with no clothes on.” The play is so unflinching in its revelations of the human heart and so compassionate about the anatomisation of the soul. Nancy Carroll, one of our most subtle and superb performers, is perfectly placed to embody a Hester for our times.

Have you directed any of the cast before?

I worked with Hadley Fraser on a concert version of The Light Princess last summer at Cadogan Hall and we had a good shorthand. I was in a student play with Nancy Carroll over twenty years ago, but beyond that - no. The company are each so brilliantly talented. The strength in depth is incredible. Helena Wilson has just been nominated for the Ian Charleson Award. She came in to audition for the role of Ann Welch and just blew us away.

The play takes place over the course of one day; does this present challenges?

I suppose the challenge is to pace the action so that it is cumulative and that the tension and the audience interest don’t ebb away. It’s a detailed collaboration with myself, sound, set, costume, lighting and music to ensure that the tone and mood are always involving. The time frame is very focusing, though, for the actors – it’s a real bell jar.

The Minerva is quite an intimate space, is that a help or a hindrance for this play? 

I’m thrilled that Daniel Evans has programmed it for the Minerva. To me, that’s the perfect space for the play. Hester’s really meant to have gone down in the world, living “in sin” in this Blitz-damaged area of NW London, in arrears with the rent, after a married life of comfort in Eaton Square. I also think that the claustrophobia which can be generated in a small space is considerable and will really help with the through-the-keyhole voyeurism of the piece.

Q&A with Debbie Wiseman

Debbie Wiseman was awarded an OBE last year for services to music. Her credits, over 200 of them, for both the big and small screen range from Wolf Hall to Judge John Deed to Wilde; she is a regular presence on Radio 3 and 4 and is Classic FM’s Composer in Residence. Returning to Chichester this year after composing the music for the 2017 Festival production Sweet Bird of Youth, Debbie is composing the score for The Deep Blue Sea. We asked Debbie to give us an insight into how she begins composing for a play and how the play inspires the music.

We’ve heard fantastic things about the score for the production. Where do you start when you are composing the music for a play?

It always starts with a proper, concentrated reading of the script, to immerse myself in the story; then I share my initial ideas for music with the director. Finding out what the director has in mind is critical and I had some great early conversations with Paul Foster about tone and colour. He was particularly keen not to influence me too much as he wanted me to have room to explore my own ideas, which was wonderful.

How do you work with the sound designer for the show?

I've spoken several times with the sound designer, George Dennis, and of course we talked about the discussions I had with Paul to make sure that we were all singing from the same hymn sheet – or all playing from the same score, if you like…! The music was composed quite early on, so we could give George as much time as possible to work with the final recordings and weave them into the sound world he’s created for the play.

Has the play’s 1950’s setting inspired the music and instruments you’ve selected?

The time in which a play is set instantly suggests musical ideas - Paul mentioned that he'd been listening to Kathleen Ferrier’s version of "Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes" and that provided some early inspiration. The instrumentation usually follows hard on the heels of the composing of the melody – for me, they go hand in hand. I’ve always worked this way. I'll find a melody that feels right for the piece and then choose the best instrument to perform it.

How does the score work with the text in this production?

The score weaves in and out of the text, just as it would do in a film or television score. The music's there to support the actors' performances and enhance the atmosphere of the piece. I feel that music should only appear when it can add another dimension to what's on stage...almost like an additional character.

 Have you been inspired by any of the characters – any of their characteristics or personalities?

Hester's character is so present throughout the play that it's hard not be inspired by her...the way she's defined in terms of her relationship. I wanted to create a score to support that mood. The musical identity shifts in atmosphere from darkness, contemplation and foreboding, to hope, and that is intended as a conscious reflection of Hester's unfolding story.

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Running Time
2 hours and 25 minutes including the interval