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The Winslow Boy

Terence Rattigan
Birmingham Repertory Theatre
Cheltenham Everyman Theatre

“That was good”, “It was excellent”. “I really enjoyed that” were some of the comments I heard as I walked back to my car on Wednesday evening after seeing this very entertaining production.

The Winslow Boy is the story of a family’s legal battle to restore the youngest son of the family’s good name and character. Important things to many, especially in 1908.

Arthur Winslow, well played by Aden Gillet, even with the odd slip or two, is the very model of an Edwardian (Edward VII for those not up on their history), retired, middle-class father, stern, commanding, somewhat terrifying and compassionate if telling him the truth.

He has a lazy son Dickie (Theo Bamber) in his second year at Oxford University, a daughter Catherine (Dorothea Myer-Bennett), who is secretary for the local Suffragette office, and a young son Ronnie, just 13 years old, at the Royal Navel College at House Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.

Ronnie Winslow, superbly played by Misha Butler, has been expelled after the Admiralty have found him guilty of stealing from a fellow navel cadet and cashing a 5 shilling postal order. He says he didn’t do it, his father believes him and employs the best barrister in the land, Sir Robert Morton (Timothy Watson), to defend him, even though the financial cost is nearly too great. Timothy Watson gives the “cold fish” barrister just the right hint of being a human with a heart and is excellent when questioning Ronnie in act I.

Dorothea Myer-Bennett is wonderful as the forward-thinking, politically-aware daughter as is Tessa Peake-Jones as her mother Grace.

William Belchambers, as Catherine’s fiancé John Watherstone, is spot-on, Soo Drouet gives a fantastic performance as Violet, the family’s long-term maid, and Geff Francis gives a sympathetic performance as the family solicitor (Desmond Curry) whose love for Catherine is unrequited.

But this play, whilst covering the serious legal right and hoop jumping necessary to take on the Crown, has lots of funny lines and quips which had the audience laughing and chuckling and it is a jolly good production by all, magnificently directed by Rachel Kavanaugh.

The set is cleverly designed by Michael Taylor, with the illusion of solid drawing room walls which switches to semi-transparent gauze, allowing us to occasionally glimpse the columns of Queen Victoria’s summer residence, Osborne House.

Reviewer: Judith Wordsworth