Cft Deepbluesea 447 X792 Px.

Nancy Carroll 
Hadley Fraser   Gerald Kyd

The Deep Blue Sea

By Terence Rattigan

Minerva TheatreTicketsPrice: from £20


Don't leave me alone tonight.

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.

Prologue 17 Lime Teal.

Prologue tickets available from 2 March

Cast & Creatives


  • Bw Nancy Carroll.

    Nancy Carroll

    Hester Collyer
  • Hadley Fraser Bw.

    Hadley Fraser

    Freddie Page
  • Bw Gerald Kyd.

    Gerald Kyd

    Sir William Collyer
  • Bw Denise Black.

    Denise Black

    Mrs Elton
  • Bw Matthew Cottle Headshot.

    Matthew Cottle

    Mr Miller
  • Bw Davis Ralph.

    Ralph Davis

    Philip Welch
  • Bw Laurence Ubong Williams.

    Laurence Ubong Williams

    Jackie Jackson
  • Bw Helena Wilson Headshot.

    Helena Wilson

    Ann Welch

Creative team

Paul Foster


Peter McKintosh


Natasha Chivers

Lighting Designer

Debbie Wiseman


George Dennis

Sound Designer

Charlotte Sutton

Casting Director

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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. 

Paul Bw.

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.

Debbie Bw.

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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