The Winslow Boy at Bath and touring

MANY productions of Terence Rattigan’s The Winslow Boy had left the impression of a stilted, worthy, period piece, peopled with conventionally unbending Victor­ian patriarchs.

So Rachel Kavanaugh’s new production for Birmingham Reper­tory Theatre comes as a breath of fresh air. It’s a new approach to Ratt­i­gan’s greatest work, creating a warm and believable Winslow family.

The whole thing is set against Michael Taylor’s brilliant set, with its middle class domestic comfort backed by ghostly pillars of authority exerting their unrelenting power, as retired bank manager Arthur Winslow takes on the might of the Admiralty and the Government to prove his son’s innocence of a charge of theft.

Based on a true story, Rattigan’s play is particularly apposite in this anniversary year of suffrage and as the Great War commemorations reach their climax. The boy in the real story died at Ypres.  His sister in the play was headed to action in the Suffragette movement.

Aden Gillett brings a human dim­ension to Arthur Winslow, the man prepared to sacrifice everything to prove his beloved son innocent. His relationships with his wife,  wastral elder son Dickie and his daughter, as well as with cadet Ronnie, bring a  teasing love into the usual strictness. It is from a happy and slightly eccentric home that the Winslow assault on the Admiralty begins.

When leading barrister Sir Robert Morton arrives (in the person of Timothy Watson, best known as the controlling Rob Titchener in The Archers) he is not only convinced of Ronnie’s innocence, but – against his training and usual iron emotional control – also finds himself beguiled by this warm,  loving family.

Subtly and incisively performed by Gillet, Watson, Dorothea Myer-Bennett as the determined sister Kate, Tessa Peake-Jones as the long-suffering Grace Winslow, Theo Bamber as the older son Dickie,  and Soo Drouet as the eccentric and devoted maid Violet, this is a production worth changing your plans to see.

It’s on until Saturday at Bath before continuing its UK tour.



Photographs by Alastair Muir

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