A rich and complex evening, full of colour and intrigue, is the result as Nicholas Wright turns literary detective to ponder the mystery of Rattigan’s Nijinsky.
In 1974 Terence Rattigan wrote a television script for the BBC about Diaghilev, genius impresario behind the Ballets Russes, and Nijinsky, the greatest dancer of all time.
It was a piece which clearly meant a great deal to Rattigan personally for reasons he could never publicly admit - and yet he withdrew it, never to be published, let alone performed.
The decision and the script itself are Wright’s starting points for a genuinely-enthralling night at the theatre.
Malcolm Sinclair is superb as the dying Rattigan, a man who believes the screenplay will pave his way back to the kind of popularity he once enjoyed.
Standing between him and its realisation is the self-appointed guardian of the troubled dancer’s memory, Nijinsky’s elderly widow Romola, who threatens to out Rattigan if he goes ahead with the project.
As he ponders his dilemma, so the characters from his screenplay burst into life, Jonathan Hyde an absolute delight as the over-the-top Diaghilev and Joseph Drake equally impressive as Nijinsky, a performer at the limit of his sanity.
As the elderly Romola fights Rattigan for his script, so the younger Romola fights Diaghilev for her husband - two fascinating battles unfurling in a piece beautifully orchestrated by Philip Franks in probably his finest directorial moment at the CFT.
Where The Deep Blue Sea - with which this is presented as a double-header - is tired and rather dull, Rattigan’s Nijinsky soars, part thriller, part convoluted love story, always engrossing and frequently moving.
The way past crashes in on present is beautifully done; you know the end point (non-publication). The cleverness is in showing us how we reach it - two plays in one, superbly staged, inextricably interwoven to create a dazzling piece of drama.