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Mad about the boy

PUBLISHED: 11:10 08 May 2008 | UPDATED: 17:19 16 August 2010

BASED on actual events, Terence Rattigan s 1946 play The Winslow Boy describes the terrible consequences of a father s obsession in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, writes Mark Campbell. Ronnie Winslow, a young Naval cadet, is accused of steal

BASED on actual events, Terence Rattigan's 1946 play The Winslow Boy describes the terrible consequences of a father's obsession in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, writes Mark Campbell.

Ronnie Winslow, a young Naval cadet, is accused of stealing a five-shilling postal order and is swiftly expelled from college.

His father, Arthur, cannot accept the shame that this tiny act brings upon his family, and, believing that the boy is innocent, brings legal proceedings against the Admiralty itself.

After employing Sir Robert Morton, the best lawyer of the day, Arthur Winslow finds his whole life consumed by the years-long battle to prove his son's innocence.

The financial toll on his family is one thing, but the drastic failure of his own health (he is forced to use a wheelchair in the final scene) virtually brings Arthur to death's door.

Is all this really worth it over a mere five shillings? asks Rattigan. (This equates to approximately £10 in today's money.)

Crayford's Geoffrey Whitworth Theatre staged a resilient production of the play last week, with a strong cast under the direction of Ross Holland making the most of the play's robust moral core.

Ronnie was played by a confident Glen Chute, who although only 14, towered over the rest of the cast.

Humour was provided in the form of Lesley Robins as the talkative maid Violet, and Ian Pring as a gone-to-seed cricketer.

Len Wooding was perhaps a little bumbling as the father, although he certainly eked out the humour of the part.

Eileen Brookes was excellent as Grace Winslow (Ronnie's mother), as was Charlotte Bacon as Catherine, a tough Suffragette who grudgingly grows to admire the devious techniques of Sir Robert Morton.

The latter was played to perfection by Maurice Tripp.

His pivotal interrogation of Ronnie was a superbly sustained sequence, while his weariness at the end demonstrated the real man behind the gruff facade.

Dan Smith, Mike Weaver, Carol Gray and Harry Dunphy equipped themselves well in supporting roles, with Pam Morris' costumes and Ross Holland's set design contributing to the authentic feel of the story.

Mark Campbell

The next play at the Geoffrey Whitworth Theatre is Rose by Martin Sherman, from 17 to 24 May. Tickets: 01322 526390.

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