Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

The Winslow Boy

Terence Rattigan
Salisbury Playhouse
(2009)

Production photo

Rarely these days does one encounter a production of even a well-made play without the distraction of rewrite or adaptation. Nor is this always the result of practical staging requirements.

I, for one, am grateful therefore for the likes of Somerset Maugham and, in the present case, Terence Rattigan whose post-war study of human frailty, The Winslow Boy, takes the stage at Salisbury Playhouse after an absence of sixty years.

Philip Wilson's splendid production is aided by a strong company headed by Philip Franks in the stern role of the veteran Arthur Winslow.

Throughout this sterling performance, one feels mounting sympathy for the courage of a man, and one cannot but remember he is a real-life figure, who sacrifices himself and the rest of his family for his belief in the innocence of his own son.

While the achievement of Alan Westaway in the normally scene-stealing persona of Robert Morton, is somewhat short of the charisma of Donat, Emlyn Williams and even Kenneth More, it is nevertheless a strong interpretation which ably meets the demands of this excellent revival.

For that matter, every one of the Salisbury players is required to match an historic precedent, whether it be Donat, Cedric Hardwick (old Winslow), Margaret Leighton (Catherine) or Basil Rathbone.

Abigail McKern well sustains the family name as Grace whose increasing weariness so vividly reflects the mounting strain upon her husband. Splendid work, too, by Hattie Ladbury as Catherine whose scenes with Morton are gems.

Andre Frame is a sound Curry, making the most of the proposal scene, while Sam Hodges extracts the most from his unsympathetic character as the weak suitor, Watherstone. And Sam Marks is properly restrained as brother Dickie.

A warm performance from Maggie McCarthy as Violet, climaxes memorably in her closing scene excitement, as the herald from the law courts.

Ronnie Winslow is sensitively played by Hugh Mitchell with a nice piece of symbolism at the curtain indicating touchingly the boy's ultimate fate.

There is a nice period design by Colin Falconer and, surely, some irony in the fact that more than a century after Ronnie Winslow's plight took a nation's mind from the looming disaster of world war, it should return here to distract us, if only briefly, from the drama of economic chaos.

The production continues until Saturday, 21st February.

Reviewer: Kevin Catchpole