Providing a window into the Edwardian life, Terence Rattigan’s play The Winslow Boy is a story of miscarriage of justice not told from a courtroom, but the living room of the Winslow’s grand house.
It’s a clever production that enables us an audience to directly step into their lives and witness the story of young Master Winslow who has been accused of theft, come to life under their roof. Fourteen-year-old Ronnie Winslow arrives home after being expelled from the Royal Navy College after accusations he stole a five-shilling postal order from one of the other cadets at the college. His father Arthur discovers what happens and is determined to set the record straight and prove his son’s innocence.
Despite it being set in the Edwardian times, it’s a naturalistic production with themes that resonate to this day. Whether it’s false accusations that still float around on the news today or the inequality of women which is heavily touched upon by Arthur’s daughter Catherine Winslow who is part of the suffragette movement. Ultimately it’s a production about good versus bad, right versus wrong and it is played out through strong, consistent acting that manages to capture the attention of all through the pacy dialogue and interesting characters.
As the rest of the nation become invested in the case, Arthur, played by Aden Gilett, approaches the situation with a calm persona in order to clear his son’s name. Gilett provides a superb performance that encapsulates both his fight and love for his son. Over the two year trial, we see his health decline as he is confined to a wheelchair, but his strength never falters. His wife Grace, played by Tessa Peake-Jones, has a warm nature and soft heart whilst bringing a huge amount of humour to the role.
Dorothea Myer-Bennett provides a dominant performance as Catherine Winslow, a suffragette and a high-powered young woman whose confidence and sarcasm gives brings a modern edge to the piece. Her encounters with barrister Sir Robert Morton, played by Timothy Watson, are hilarious and as their clashing personalities create great moments in the play. It is interesting as Catherine’s younger, more strong-willed nature against Grace’s attitude really highlights the rapid change in gender roles as we steer towards a more gender equal society.
Director Rachel Kavanaugh’s intelligent production boasts impeccable acting and engaging characters that capture the time and theme well as a naturalistic piece of theatre and first-rate comedy.
The Winslow Boy is on at the Birmingham Rep until the 3rd of March and The Lowry in Salford from the 9th to the 14th of March.