W Somerset Maugham’s The Sacred Flame is 84 years old, and before this revival had not been performed since 1967. Part whodunnit, part a social commentary that resonates quite eerily down the ages, it tells a story of family ties and explores the differing ways love can manifest itself.
Maurice (Jamie de Courcey) has been left bedridden and disabled since a flying accident. His young, beautiful wife Stella (Beatriz Romilly) does what she can for him, alongside his mother (Margot Leicester) and devoted Nurse Wayland (Sarah Churm). The play explores their own needs and desires, and how they influence the decisions they make and the way they see those around them.
For a play taking place in the 1920s, designer Annna Fleischle’s set is kept simple and minimalist, instead of crammed with period chintz. Ilona Karas’s beautiful costumes are perfectly styled, especially for glamorous Stella.
What begins as a light-hearted tale of society life soon turns more macabre, as the characters are all forced to face the devastating reality of Maurice’s illness and the impact it is having on the family. Maugham’s text is beautifully written, with enough light in the beginning to counter the gloom that follows, and its progressive social arguments and exploration of womens’ rights seemed ahead of their time.
Traditional, high quality and thought provoking, although not homegrown this time like Tartuffe, it was a pleasure to sit down and be entertained by English Touring Theatre.