Review: The Winslow Boy, Lace Market Theatre, by Alan Geary
Just before the outbreak of the Great War a thirteen-year-old boy is expelled from naval college for stealing a postal order. But his father pursues the matter through the courts and it becomes a nationally well known cause célèbre.
Based on a real-life case, The Winslow Boy is one of the best plays from the newly re-appreciated Terence Rattigan, one of the last century's finest playwrights. And the latest Lace Market production, directed by Bob Wildgust, does it full justice.
It's not just a matter of that brilliant scene where Sir Robert Morton K C interrogates young Ronnie to find out whether or not he's innocent – that's one of the best encounters in English theatre; and it's done well here. There are also wonderful moments, for instance, between Catherine and her father and, at the end, when real possibilities open up, between Catherine and Sir Robert.
It's an excellent cast, all of whom look completely authentic in some outstanding costumes. Robert Suttle is splendid as Arthur. He brings out the tragic quality of the man as well as his comic dimension. And Gemma Barritt is subtle and moving as daughter Catherine, who you just know is going to become a Labour politician. Graeme Jennings's Sir Robert is a stand-out performance insofar as Jennings makes clear the three-dimensional complexity of his man.
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Not a word of the text is wasted. All the time, at all sorts of levels, plot development, revelation of character, examination of the big issues of the period – women's suffrage, labour unrest, the approaching war, even the Americanisation of popular music – things are happening. But in the forefront is the central question: at what point does the man of principle become a stubborn and foolhardy family destroyer?
People like a well-made play. The first-night audience certainly appreciated this one.
The Winslow Boy runs at the Lace Market Theatre till Saturday, 16th March