An idyllic Greek isle provides the backdrop for a very unsettling arrangement

Photos Manuel Harlan

Theatre review Sunset at the Villa Thalia - credit manuel harlan

This new play by Alexi Kaye Campbell explores the increasingly complicated relationship between two couples during a tumultuous period of unrest in Greece and is set over the course of two evenings. The first in 1967 sees an English couple, playwright Theo and his actress wife Charlotte, be persuaded by American diplomat Harvey and his wife June, an alcoholic played by Downton Abbey’s Elizabeth McGovern, to buy the holiday home they are renting. Over dinner, small talk turns to big deals as smooth-talking Harvey (brilliantly played by Ben Miles) convinces the couple to buy the villa for next to nothing from its desperate owners. When we return nine years later in 1976 we witness the pair’s guilt over their exploitation of the Greek owners.

Theatre review Sunset at the Villa Thalia - credit manuel harlan

From the off, there’s a feeling that this paradisiac property is set to be the background for uglier dealings. So when news of a coup on the Greek government reaches the quartet at the end of act one, you know that this tranquil setting will be marred in political and familial unrest when the curtain comes back up. Secrets are unveiled and characters who consider themselves to be decent people start to question their morality as relationships begin to breakdown.

This is a thought-provoking production that impresses with its minimal, yet clever, set design. The gradual dimming of light and birdsong throughout each act echoes the eponymous sunset, while the smattering of children’s toys and a lick of paint on the villa windows shows the passing of time. But this can’t save it. In a time when Greece’s financial troubles are headline news, this production fails in its intentions to convincingly explore the issues of political intervention, dictatorship and Western entitlement.

Until 4 August
Hospitality We like the intimate Gielgud Room for bespoke packages that include pre- and post-show champagne, canapés or fine dining.
Eat & drink The Green Room, Skylon, Mondrian London at Sea Containers 

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Theatre review Sunset at the Villa Thalia - credit manuel harlan

Theatre review Sunset at the Villa Thalia - credit manuel harlan

Theatre review Sunset at the Villa Thalia - credit manuel harlan