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  • Writer's pictureGaurav Singh

Review of 'While The Sun Shines' at the Orange Tree Theatre

This review was written on behalf of North West End UK and was originally published here.

British writer Terence Rattigan’s 1943 comedy ‘While The Sun Shines’ makes a grand return at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond, after its sold-out run in 2019. Directed by Orange Tree Theatre’s artistic director Paul Miller, the show breathes a new life into Rattigan’s sharply-written farce about a lovers’ quarrel in the backdrop of the war through well-crafted performances and an engaging in-the-round staging.

When it was first published, the show surpassed the success of Rattigan’s 1936 comedy ‘French Without Tears’ and had an immensely popular run of over 1000 performances on the West End. Many attribute this to Rattigan’s ability to wring humour from ordinary characters in absurd situations as well as subtly acknowledge the circumstances and implications of war in day-to-day life. The latter is overwhelmingly evident in this play which contextualises the boy-meets-girl-and-trouble-ensues narrative plot into a rib-tickling commentary about the allied forces and class divide. The action takes place in the house of the wealthy Earl of Harpenden (Philip Labey) who is about to marry his fiancée Lady Elisabeth Randall (Rebecca Collingwood). Both of them serve in the armed forces, the Earl as an ordinary seaman in the navy whilst Lady Elisabeth serves as an officer. The Earl’s imminent marriage begets an end to his womanizing ways, especially his affair with an old girlfriend Mabel Crum (Sophie Khan Levy). On the day before his marriage, the Earl grants refuge (and a bed) to Lieutenant Mulvaney (Conor Glean), an American soldier whose drunken escapades the night before in a local London pub has landed him in the company of English aristocracy. To meet his own ends as well as allow his American guest to make the most of his time in London, the Earl decides to introduce him to Mabel Crum.

However, a series of unfortunate incidents and mistimed appearances lead to an even greater flurry of misunderstandings – Mulvaney falls in love with Lady Elisabeth Randal, who decides to break off her marriage with the Earl and everything begins to fall apart. This is further complicated by the arrival of the French Lieutenant Colbert (Jordan Mifsúd) who claims it’s his passionate admission to Lady Elisabeth that’s changed her mind whilst the Lady’s father, the Duke of Ayr & Stirling (Michael Lumsden) jumps on the confusing circumstances to further his own agenda. From verbal assault and secret confessions to unruly wagers and an unrelenting game of craps, the young men of the allied forces feud for the women’s affection.

Rattigan’s quick-witted dialogue and fast-moving actions pit all these characters and relationships in whimsically absurd situations and allow us to develop a new perspective on love, wealth, identity and self-expression during times of war. The show is backed by stellar performances from its cast – Philip Labey delivers a nuanced, measured portrayal of the Earl’s conflict with his grandiose public stature and stumbling personal image. Conor Glean’s Mulvaney is high-spirit and trigger ready, whilst Jordan Mifsúd’s Colbert is fiery and temperamental. The three young soldiers’ frenetic energy is balanced by Michael Lumsden’s portrayal of a fumbling and self-indulgent general who views the Earl’s imminent marriage to his daughter more as a business opportunity than anything else. John Hudson’s hilariously dead-pan Horton, the Earl’s butler, creates some wickedly funny moments on stage and offers us an outsider’s perspective on the bumbling actions of these people in power. Sophie Khan Levy’s highlight’s her character’s mischievous and unpredictable nature whilst Rebecca Collingwood sweeps us off her feet with her charming Lady Elisabeth who breaks out of her rule-following, obedient outlook to life and ventures to make decisions for herself. Simon Daw’s design makes good use of the Orange Tree’s space and cleverly uses the minimal set to accentuate the intimate staging of the piece.

You can watch While The Sun Shines at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond till 8th January 2022 or stream it online until 18th January 2022. Read more and book your tickets at

Reviewer: Gaurav Singh Nijjer

Reviewed: 24th November 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★


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