22nd September, 2021 / 19:00 -
28th November, 2012
by Rodney Ackland
Directed by Ellis Jones
Performed by BA (Hons) Acting students
Absolute Hell is the work of a former Central acting student, Rodney Ackland, who was born in 1902 and died in 1991. He worked as an actor and director in regional repertory and West End theatres, but eventually achieved a distinguished career in writing. Several of his plays were produced in London, and one of them, Strange Orchestra began life at the Embassy Theatre.
Ackland worked extensively as a screenwriter, collaborating with, amongst others, Alfred Hitchcock and Terence Rattigan. The latter financed a London transfer of Ackland’s first large-scale theatre play, The Pink Room.
It opened in June 1952 at the Lyric, Hammersmith, and received generally hostile reviews, which led Ackland to abandon writing for the theatre. However, this was a play ahead of its time. It’s set in a West End night-club, is structured in an almost cinematic style, and one of the central characters is openly gay – a tricky subject in the 1950s, when homosexuality was illegal. Tastes change, and in 1988 Sam Walters and John Gardyne staged a new version at the Orange Tree, Richmond, edited in collaboration with Ackland, with the new title Absolute Hell.
The production was a great success. The play was then adapted and directed for television by Antony Page, starring Judi Dench and Bill Nighy, who both subsequently starred in a highly-acclaimed stage revival at the National Theatre in 1995.
For more information please visit the CSSD website.