Variation On A Theme

by Terence Rattigan

25 February – 22 March 2014

“Feelings can't sometimes be helped, but the expression of them can.”

The world's first production in more than 50 years

The entire run is now completely sold out including the extra matinee on Wednesday, 19 March at 3.00pm.

Extra performances may be added. Please join our Mailing List HERE for details.

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The first ever production in more than fifty years of Terence Rattigan’s Variation on a Theme, starring twice Olivier Award nominated Rachael Stirling.

Inspired by La Dame aux Camelias, and set amidst the glamorous and exotic society of the 1950’s French Riviera, Variation on a Theme revolves around the tempestuous love affair between Rose, a beautiful and worldly socialite, and Ron, a young ballet dancer with a keen eye for social advancement.

In an emotionally charged story of desire and disillusionment, Rose is persuaded by Ron’s choreographer and mentor, Sam, to sacrifice her personal happiness for the sake of her young lover’s success and career.  But as Rose’s health deteriorates, and Ron is faced with the loveless reality of their separation, they finally face up to their need to be needed.

A forgotten classic by “one of the supreme dramatists of the 20th century” (Michael Billington, The Guardian), this will be the first production of the play anywhere in the world since its original 1958 premiere when it was directed by John Gielgud, and starred Margaret Leighton and Jeremy Brett.

About The Playwright Terence Rattigan

Terence Rattigan was born in South Kensington, close to the Finborough Theatre, in 1911. His many classic plays include French Without Tears, After The Dance, Flare Path, While The Sun Shines, The Winslow Boy, The Browning Version, Harlequinade, The Deep Blue Sea, The Sleeping Prince, Separate Tables, Variation On A Theme, Ross, Man And Boy, A Bequest To The Nation, In Praise Of Love and Cause Célèbre. He also wrote screenplays for such classic films as The Way To The Stars, Journey Together, While the Sun Shines, The Winslow Boy, The Browning Version, The Prince And The Showgirl, Separate Tables, The Sound Barrier, The Deep Blue Sea, The VIPs, The Yellow Rolls Royce – and collaborated on The Quiet Wedding, The Day Will Dawn and Brighton Rock. His television plays include Heart To Heart, Adventure Story and High Summer.  He was awarded a CBE in 1958, and knighted in 1971. Sir Terence Rattigan died in 1977. Please visit the official Terence Rattigan website at

About The Director Michael Oakley

Director Michael Oakley is a recipient of the JMK Award for Young Directors for which he directed Edward II at BAC. In 2012 he was Co-Artistic Director of Chichester Festival Theatre's pop-up space Theatre on the Fly. Direction includes Playhouse Creatures (Chichester Festival Theatre), The Changeling (Southwark Playhouse), Shooting Truth (NT Connections) and Graceland (The 24 Hour Plays: Old Vic New Voices). Associate Direction includes Relative Values (Theatre Royal Bath and UK tour), Kiss Me Kate (The Old Vic), The King’s Speech (West End and UK tour), Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (Chichester Festival Theatre and West End). Assistant Direction includes Inherit The Wind (The Old Vic), A Month in the Country, The Critic and The Real Inspector Hound, Oklahoma!, Cyrano de Bergerac (Chichester Festival Theatre), tHe dYsFUnCKshOnalZ! (Bush Theatre) and Much Ado About Nothing (Globe Education). Michael was trainee director-in-residence at Chichester Festival Theatre and has also completed a training course with Cheek by Jowl.

The Press on Director Michael Oakley

"Marvellously entertaining and stylishly directed by Michael Oakley, in sum one of those evenings when theatre is more alive than life" Five Stars, The Daily Telegraph on Playhouse Creatures

"A sure gift for racy, pacey storytelling that bodes well for the future and his classical career; a young director who already knows that it is telling the story that really counts" Lyn Gardner, The Guardian, on Edward II

The Press on Current Production

“One of those hidden gems that the Finborough is so good at unearthing...Quite why such a fine play should have disappeared is a mystery. This modern reworking of Dumas's La Dame aux Camélias (the theme that is varied) is gripping and heartrending.” Philip Fisher, British Theatre Guide

“This production exudes quality, charm and talent...Layered, thought-provoking and consistently entertaining.” Catherine Usher, The Stage

“The fact that audiences can see such a high quality play (if they have a ticket - the run is sold out) in such an intimate space at a very modest price is remarkable. This is a production that other fringe venues, and indeed any venue, should seek to emulate. This is exactly how it should be done.” Catherine Usher, The Stage

“With ticket demand so great and a high profile star, surely a West End transfer must follow.” Philip Fisher, British Theatre Guide

“If you’re in the mood for a neglected gem from the 1950s, the theatre you need is the Finborough, which is making quite a name for itself in this area. It has scored a real coup here, with the first professional production since its 1958 premiere (directed by John Gielgud) of this Terence Rattigan makes for a fascinating evening’s viewing.” Fiona Mountford, London Evening Standard

“Double Olivier nominee Rachael Stirling is superb.” Laura Barnett, Time Out

“Stirling’s performance is a triumph, brilliantly imbued with vulnerability and pastel-shaded glamour.” Laura Barnett, Time Out

“This is, of course, Rachael Stirling's show and her Rose is a compelling mix of strength and vulnerability who's hard to take your eyes off in this intimate space.” Nick Holland, Partially Obstructed View

“Supported magnificently by Susan Tracy.” Ian Foster, The Public Reviews

“There’s strong support from Phil Cheadle’s banker Kurt, determined not to lose anything, whether fiancées or games of cards, and David Shelley as Sam.” Ian Foster, The Public Reviews

“Martin McCreadie as her balletic lover, Susan Tracy as her protective confidante and Phil Cheadle as her prospective Teutonic husband lend firm support.” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“Michael Oakley’s production has considerably sharpened up the play. There’s a rich vein of humour … a scintillating lead performance from Rachael Stirling, a stunning presence for so intimate a room.” Ian Foster, The Public Reviews

25 February – 22 March 2014

Tickets and Times

Tuesday 7:30pm
Wednesday 7:30pm (Matinee on 19th March at 3.00pm)
Thursday 7:30pm
Friday 7:30pm
Saturday 3:00pm
Sunday 3:00pm

Approximately 2 and a half hours with one interval of fifteen minutes.