Ian Richardson began his distinguished career at Birmingham Rep nearly 50 years ago and was a mainstay of the RSC's Stratford company for many years, but opportunities to see him in a West Midlands theatre these days are rare.
He is at Malvern this week in a West End-bound revival of this play by Pauline Macauley, whose name was completely unknown to me. The play itself, which was originally staged during the heyday of John Neville's Nottingham Playhouse in the mid-60s and subsequently in London, is a curiosity.
Creepy interlopers were a recurring theme in the1960s, when class barriers appeared to be breaking down and the privileged were under threat from the upwardly mobile.
In this case the "creeper" is Maurice, a diffident former shop assistant who insinuates his way into the home of eccentric elderly millionaire Edward before under-going a personality change that distantly recalls the classic Losey/Pinter film The Servant.
However, Macauley's writing is not on that level and the play struggles under the weight of a snail-paced exposition. And while we eventually find out a lot about Edward, Maurice is a much sketch-ier character, amounting to little more than a plot-convenient nutter. Michel, his camp predecessor as Edward's paid companion, is a more interesting invention.
Still, it's not without interest. Although Edward declares himself sexually dormant the whole play is suffused in homo-erotic tension. It is remarkable that it was written by a woman at a time when, as we now have to remind ourselves, homosexuality between consenting adults was illegal.
By the end Richardson has given us a complete portrait of a man who has spent his life hiding from women in the house in which he was a child, who still plays trains and Indians with the ancient manservant he inherited from his father while, in an obvious metaphor, a creeper threatens to bring an ancient tree crashing through the french windows.
In its way it's a sociological document of its times, but for all the substance Ian Richardson brings to it, it's still not a particularly good play.
Running time: Two hours, 15 minutes. Until Saturday.