facebook play-alt chevron-thin-right chevron-thin-left cancel location info chevron-thin-down star-full help-with-circle calendar images mail whatsapp directions_car directions_bike train directions_walk directions_bus close spinner11

The Deep Blue Sea at the National theatre

First Published 9 June 2016, Last Updated 30 May 2018

What’s it all about?

Set in post-war London, the play tells the story of Hester, married to serious judge Bill, who falls in love and runs away with pilot Freddie. Too late she realises that she loves far more than she is loved in return, and the play begins when she is discovered following a botched suicide attempt. Over the course of the day she must reckon with her relationships with both men, and face the prospect of life beyond earth-shattering heartbreak.

Who’s in it?

Helen McCrory (Medea, Peaky Blinders) returns to the National, giving a staggering performance as Hester. McCrory demonstrates every nuance of Hester’s feelings with perfect ease, transitioning seamlessly from the image of a calm, collected 1950s housewife to a desperate, frightened woman, filled with self-hatred at her own emotions.

Tall and imposing, Bill (played with gravitas by Peter Sullivan) is as solid as a brick wall and just about as comforting, whereas Tom Burke’s Freddie is loud, brash and oozing with charm. They are polar opposites, but both share an intimate connection with Hester that will be tested to the limit over the course of the day,

What should I look out for?

Tom Scutt’s exquisitely detailed set, offering a snapshot of 1950s domesticity, with the lives and movements of Hester’s neighbours visible through semi-transparent walls. Keep your eyes peeled for subtle changes in light and sound that radically affect the mood on stage, from the sound of the rain to the idle blowing of a curtain in the breeze.

The incredible rhythm of Rattigan’s text, which, under sensitive direction from Carrie Cracknell, moves suddenly from staccato bursts of panicked conversation to elegiac moments of silence, keeping the audience constantly on edge.

Nick Fletcher’s touchingly understated portrayal of disgraced doctor Miller, whose sensitive (and when needed, humorously direct) insight informs the actions of those around him. Fletcher maintains a persona of trustworthy authority, as well as a barely-hidden air of unspeakable pain, in a performance that very nearly steals the show.

In a nutshell?

Helen McCrory dazzles in Rattigan’s heart-wrenching tale of the destructive power of  love.

What are people saying on Twitter?


To see this content you’ll need to allow us to set some additional cookies!

Update your cookie preferences here and enable ‘social and advertising cookies’

Will I like it?

I defy anyone not to be hooked by McCrory’s masterful performance; surrounded by people who scorn and devalue her capacity for love, just watch her reactions as each male character tells her how to feel. She sees right through them all, her words dripping with sarcasm as she maintains her impeccable image of self-control, while seeking to escape from her crushing inner turmoil.

Moving and thought provoking, this is a play about loving with your eyes open, and learning how to keep on living in spite of pain. With a sumptuous set and sterling performances all round, this is one show not to miss this summer.

The Deep Blue Sea runs at the Lyttleton Theatre, National Theatre until 17 August. You can book tickets through the official website. 


Sign up

Related articles

If you click through to seat selection (where you'll see either best available or a seating plan), you will be seeing the most up-to-date prices. If this differs from what we've written on the calendar, please bear with us, as those prices will update soon.

We now sell our famous TKTS Booth discounts online here at Official London Theatre.

We are now cancelling all performances up until and including 31 May 2020 to help us process existing bookings whilst we wait for further clarity from the government in terms of when we will be able to reopen.

We are so sorry that in these testing and difficult times you are not able to enjoy the show you have booked for and hope the following helps clarify next steps in respect of your tickets .

There is nothing that you need to do if your performance has been cancelled, but we do ask for your patience.

If you have booked directly with the theatre or show website for an affected performance, please be assured that they will contact you directly to arrange an exchange for a later date, a credit note/voucher or a refund. If you have booked via a ticket agent they will also be in contact with you directly.

We are processing in strict date order of performance, so you are likely to be contacted after the date you were due to go to the theatre. However, we want to reassure you that you will be contacted, and your order will be processed, but please do bear with us.

We’d like to thank everyone who has been patient and kind in dealing with their ticket providers so far and we are sorry that we cannot process your order as quickly as we would like.

Please do not contact your credit card company as that will slow the process down and put an additional burden on our box office and ticket agent teams.

In order for us to serve our audiences the best we can, please do not get in touch with your point of sale if you have booked for performances after 31 May. Please be reassured that if we have to cancel future performances you will be directly contacted by your theatre or ticket provider. Our producers continue to plan for all eventualities dependent on the individual needs of their shows and we will provide further updates on specific shows as and when they become available.

We look forward to welcoming you back into our theatres as soon as we are allowed to resume performances. In the meantime stay safe and healthy.