The White Carnation

by R. C. Sherriff

26 November – 21 December 2013

“There have been strange rumours about this house. Although it was in a state of ruin, lights were seen in the windows every Christmas Eve: music was heard: voices and laughter...”

The first production in sixty years


Transfers to Jermyn Street Theatre from 4-22 February 2014

★★★★★ The Upcoming
★★★★ The Public Reviews
★★★★ The Telegraph
★★★★ UK Theatre Web

With a superlative cast led by Aden Gillett (Winner of the OffWestEnd Award for Best Actor for Accolade at the Finborough Theatre) and Benjamin Whitrow.

Christmas Eve, 1951. As Britain rebuilds itself after the war, John Greenwood has it all – a successful business, a beautiful house and an aristocratic wife. But as he bids farewell to the guests leaving his annual Christmas party, a gust of wind slams the front door shut, starting a chain of events that makes him doubt everything he has ever known…

From the writer of one of the 20th century’s most acclaimed plays, Journey’s End, The White Carnation is a ghostly tale of one man’s chance to do things differently. This rediscovery marks the first production since its premiere, starring Sir Ralph Richardson, in 1953.

About The Playwright R. C. Sherriff

Playwright R. C. Sherriff was born in 1896, and remains best known for his classic First World War masterpiece, Journey’s End, recently revived for a long run in the West End – “Recent revivals have suggested that Sherriff’s drama remains as hard-hitting and fresh as ever” Lyn Gardner, The Guardian. His many screenplays include The Invisible Man (1933), The Four Feathers (1939), the Oscar-nominated Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939) and The Dam Busters (1955). Though Journey’s End continued to define his career in the theatre, the post-Second World War period was an ‘Indian summer’ for Sherriff with productions of Miss Mabel (1948), Home at Seven (1950) and The Long Sunset (1955). He died in 1975.

About The Director Knight Mantell

Director Knight Mantell's recent production of The Art of Concealment received rave reviews at the Jermyn Street Theatre before transferring to the Riverside Studios last year. Other directing includes Sweet Pounds of Flesh (Arts Theatre), Murder in the Cathedral, The Circle, The Importance of Being Earnest, Blithe Spirit, Side by Side by Sondheim and Pygmalion (Salisbury Playhouse), Sleeping it Off (Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham), The Dresser and The Rivals (National Tours) and Hay Fever, Time and Time Again, The Secretary Bird, The Browning Version and Misalliance (Thorndike Theatre, Leatherhead).

The Press on Director Knight Mantell

The Press on 'The Art of Concealment'

“Directed with sensitivity by Knight Mantell” ★★★★★ Five Stars, Tim Walker, The Telegraph

“Deftly directed by Knight Mantell… extraordinarily powerful” ★★★★ Four Stars, Paul Taylor, The Independent

“The results are poignant and occasionally very funny… in Knight Mantell’s unfussy production” Henry Hitchings, The Evening Standard

“A well-made and sensitive play, well served in Knight Mantell’s production” Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times

The Press on the Original Production of The White Carnation

“Extremely and touchingly human...moments of great amusement and considerable emotion.” Harold Hobson, The Sunday Times

“Mr Sherriff...delights in mingling the fantastic and the matter-of-course, small-town verisimilitude with signs-and-wonders.” J. C. Trewin, Illustrated London News

The Press on The White Carnation

★★★★★ The Upcoming
★★★★ The Public Reviews
★★★★ The Telegraph
★★★★ UK Theatre Web

“An understated masterpiece. It has deservedly been unearthed in this absolutely wonderful production.” Guy de Vito, The Upcoming

“What a neglected little treasure it proves: not life-changing, maybe, but life-affirming.” Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph

“The Finborough’s artistic policy of unearthing little known plays by established writers has once again produced a treat. It’s funny, touching and utterly bewildering, leaving you asking more questions than it answers. But there’s one question which stands out over all the others: why has this play has been left lying dormant for so long?” Nathanael Kent, The Public Reviews

“A weirdly whimsical ghost story – almost Faust in reverse – resonating with the loss and anxiety that coloured the war years and their aftermath.” Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph

“This revival – the first in sixty years – of The White Carnation written a quarter of a century after his big theatrical hit, is an intrigue more than anything. And, rather pleasurably, it proves to be something far more than just a museum piece.” Nathanael Kent, The Public Reviews

“The Finborough has been making some remarkable rediscoveries's certainly an unusual and imaginative choice for a seasonal surprise...The play's a sort of haunting, combining elements of J B Priestley and J M Barrie.” Michael Coveney, WhatsOnStage

“RC Sherriff is remembered today for his trench dugout drama Journey’s End – one of the enduring masterpieces of 20th-century realist theatre, and one which will doubtless re-emerge as movingly and truthfully as ever during next year’s centenary of the First World War. But Sherriff wasn’t a one-hit wonder.” Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph

“R.C. Sherriff is not known for much beyond his 1928 magnum opus Journey’s End, but the Finborough Theatre has here unearthed a play that not only matches its heartfelt portrayal of war yet also exceeds it in terms of writing and allegory.” Guy de Vito, The Upcoming

“Aden Gillett is superb.” Nathanael Kent, The Public Reviews

“Gillett is disarmingly likeable as Greenwood.” Lauren Mooney, Exeunt

“Aden Gillett inhabits Greenwood with a mixture of spirited charm and poignant exasperation.” Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph

“Aden Gillett has a corporeal solidity that contrasts nicely with the hero's spectral status.” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“A peach of a performance from Benjamin Whitrow as a dithery vicar whose first instinct, on meeting a ghost, is to ask if he is Church of England.” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“A beautifully bumbling Benjamin Whitrow.” Sandra Lawson, Plays To See

“A delightful cameo by a furrow-browed, ever assuaging Benjamin Whitrow.” Michael Coveney, WhatsOnStage

“A fantastic turn from Benjamin Whitrow.” Lauren Mooney, Exeunt

“Philip York proves an ideal comic foil as the pompous man from the Home Office.” Gerald Berkowitz, Theatreguide London

“Knight Mantell’s production serving-up ace performances from Philip York as a splenetic Home Office bureaucrat outraged at Greenwood’s ghostly lack of procedural decorum and Benjamin Whitrow as a superb bumbling cleric.” Timothy Ramsden, Reviewsgate

“There’s superb support from, among others, Robert Benfield as the sternly no-nonsense coroner, Benjamin Whitrow as a well-meaning but clueless vicar and Daisy Boulton as a sweet uncalled-for companion.” Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph

“Beautifully rendered by a cast that is almost as big as the audience – with a masterful performance by Gillett. Benjamin Whitrow playing the vicar Mr Pendlebury, and Daisy Boulton playing the spectral loving librarian Lydia Truscott, also deserve special praise.” Guy de Vito, The Upcoming

“It’s constantly compelling stuff, thanks in part to a crack cast under the direction of Knight Mantell.” Nathanael Kent, The Public Reviews

“Knight Mantell's perky and very well cast production.” Orlando Weston, UK Theatre Web

“Knight Mantell's production proves a quirky hit.” Partially Obstructed View

“Alex Marker...comes up with a stunning set.” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“Alex Marker’s wonderful and ingenious design.” Orlando Weston, UK Theatre Web

“Should this become a West End revenant? At the very least it deserves to flit about on tour.” Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph

26 November – 21 December 2013

Tickets and Times

Tuesday 7:30pm
Wednesday 7:30pm
Thursday 7:30pm
Friday 7:30pm
Saturday 3:00pm (from 7 December 2013)
Sunday 3:00pm

Approximately 2 hours with one interval of 15 minutes