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Dear Antoine, Southampton University Players, The Nuffield
DIRECTOR Margaret Sargeant revisits Jean Anouilh’s curious play, which begins with the gathering for the reading of the will of a distinguished French playwright (Geoff Dodsworth), at his final retreat in the Bavarian mountains, but takes off in all sorts of directions until the narrative becomes of secondary interest to the portrait of a man whose love of theatre may have deprived him of the capacity to sustain a lasting relationship.
There are also the varying opinions of those who knew him and games with stage naturalism, which include the characters reappearing as actors giving the play a first reading under Antoine’s direction, with Bridget Wilkinson, Hazel Burrows and Philip De Grouchy as splendid theatrical types.
Much of this is amusing, absorbing and rather touching, but we must decide if we are discovering new levels of reality or merely in the hands of a masterful manipulator.
Antoine’s first appearance as a voice on a gramophone record is beautifully handled but other effects, particularly the snow storm in which the characters are stranded, may have been made a little more of.