The Sacred Flame, Brighton Theatre Royal, until Saturday November 3

The Sacred Flame at the Theatre Royal Brighton. Photo by Mark Douet.
The Sacred Flame at the Theatre Royal Brighton. Photo by Mark Douet.

The Sacred Flame has lost none of its power to question the morals we hold even today, since it was first performed in the West End of London in 1929.

In this moving play W Somerset Maugham tackles women’s sexual needs and the relationships between carers and their charges at a time when many of the issues addressed would have been taboo.

We find out right from the start that Maurice Tabret (Jamie De Courcey) has been injured in a horrific plane crash which has left him apparently paralysed from the waist downwards.

He is being cared for by his doting young wife Stella (Beatriz Romilly) and his loving mother Mrs Tabret (Margot Leicester), as well as the quiet but devoted Nurse Wayland (Sarah Churm).

And it is these three women who are at the forefront of the play, with their love, needs and morals examined throughout.

It is fair to say that it has the who dunnit at its heart, without revealing too much about the plot, but suffice it to say the results are nothing short of explosive.

Dialogue was kept deliberately natural, while the set itself is spartan.

Gone are the period furniture and clipped patterns of speech you might expect from the 1920s.

Stripping down the play to its fundamental elements: plot and performances, gives it a certain freshness, honing in on the raw emotions which ripple through The Sacred Flame like seismic shock waves.

The performances were rendered even more touching and heart breaking by the natural delivery from the actors.

Powerful and disturbing, The Sacred Flame leaves you asking yourself what the right thing to do might be in this situation and it will probably make you cry too. It really is that moving.

Thought provoking theatre brought bang up to date and at its best.

Interestingly when it was first staged back in the 1920s, the Bishop of London denounced the play from his pulpit as immoral, with the inevitable result that: “business went up in leaps and bounds” according to Gladys Cooper, the play’s leading lady.