In pursuit of justice

PUBLISHED: 18:01 22 July 2009 | UPDATED: 17:28 16 August 2010

A STAPLE of theatre companies for many a year, Terence Rattigan s The Winslow Boy is the epitome of that elusive thing, a good play,

A STAPLE of theatre companies for many a year, Terence Rattigan's The Winslow Boy is the epitome of that elusive thing, 'a good play', writes Mark Campbell.

But the story - of a boy accused of stealing a five-shilling postal order and the efforts of his father to prove his innocence - can oftentimes prove a rather dry affair.

Thankfully, last week's production at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley, was everything but.

For a start, director Stephen Unwin had emphasised the many humorous aspects of Rattigan's script, such as Rachel Edwards' delightfully insincere turn as a gossip columnist and the youthful peccadilloes of young Dickie Winslow (Thomas Howes).

The pace was also significantly faster than normal, again much to the play's benefit. I don't think anything was cut, but it certainly moved at a rare old speed.

As the boy's crusading father Arthur Winslow, Timothy West gave a pitch-perfect performance as the gruff idealist fighting for a cause that even he finds hard to defend at times.

His delightfully dry delivery, tempered with flashes of real humanity, was countered perfectly by Diane Fletcher as his long-suffering (but always loving) wife Grace.

Hugh Wyld as Ronnie, the title character, was believably off-hand about the whole thing - one suspects at the end that he is actually guilty of the crime - while Claire Cox gave a feisty turn as his feminist sister Catherine.

Star of the piece, however, was Adrian Lukis as Sir Robert Morton, the high-flying barrister charged with defending the boy.

A wide-eyed, aloof and self-amused figure in a black cape, Lukis' blend of dandy, businessman and intellectual was electrifyingly watchable. His fiery cross-examination of Ronnie was every bit the coup de theatre Rattigan intended; if he ever plays Sherlock Holmes, I will be first in the queue.

Simon Higlett's stunning forced perspective set and Malcolm Rippeth's subtle, atmospheric lighting design were added bonuses.

* The next production at the Churchill Theatre will be Willy Russell's Blood Brothers from 24 August. Tickets: 0844 871 7620.

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