Radio 4 Front Row presenter and journalist Mark Lawson writes in The Winslow Boy programme about the significance of father-son relationships in Terence Rattigan plays and in this play in particular. He recalls first seeing it with his father and how his father had been brought to rarely seen tears.
My dad had had a stressful relationship with his own father and so perhaps the play spoke to him, as it has to generations of this nation's males and those who have to raise or live with them.
And yes, the father-son relationship is interesting but to me, perhaps as a woman, it was the father-daughter relationship that was more so. Perhaps it is also because interesting and prominent female characters in plays aren't as prolific as they should be. If I could only select one thing to praise in Terence Rattigan's work it would be that he writes great parts for women.
In The Winslow Boy, the story is of Arthur Winslow (Henry Goodman) who is obsessed with getting a fair trial for his school boy son Ronnie (Charlie Rowe) who's been expelled for stealing. However, it is Catherine Winslow (Naomi Frederick) who stands by and supports her father the most convincingly. She's a suffragette with intelligent and informed opinions who can hold her own in conversation, standing up to the celebrated, sharp and unemotional barrister Sir Robert Morton (Peter Sullivan).
Her brothers on the other hand, well, little Ronnie, aside from a couple of scenes is fairly peripheral. This is about the right to a fair trial under the British system of justice, challenging the politics of pre-World War I Britain rather than merely clearing Ronnie's name. Indeed he doesn't seem to be overly concerned by anything that is going on around him.
Dickie (Nick Hendrix) on the other hand just wants to dance and hang out with girls. He isn't completely naive and only offers a glimpse of frustration before resignation at his inevitable early withdrawal from Oxford due to his father's diminishing funds. Otherwise he doesn't offer much by way of dynamic except that he gets on rather charmingly with his much smarter sister.
There is the stereotypical tactless maid (Wendy Nottingham) whom the Winslow's can't bring themselves to lay off, in that very British way and a lovable but not the sharpest of mothers (Deborah Findlay). But I kept coming back to Catherine and her relationships with the men in the story, her father, her fiance, the rebuffed suitor and Sir Robert. She loses the most during play and her story afterwards is the one that is potentially the most interesting. It is not Ronnie or Dickie or Arthur you really feel or root for.
The Winslow Boy is probably the wittiest of Rattigan's plays I've seen to date with some great laugh out loud lines and tragedy 'light' compared to The Deep Blue Sea, After the Dance, Cause Celebre and Flare Path. And this is a cracking production, beautifully acted although I do think Charlie Rowe is physically too big to convince as a 14-year-old.
For me the joy came from the women and in particular Catherine and I'd be tempted to rename it The Winslow Girl.
Definitely worth a look if you like Rattigan, The Winslow Boy runs at the Old Vic Theatre until May 25. Snap up the half price tickets at the booth in Leicester Square.
Production shot by Tristram Kenton.
Third Finger, Left Hand, Trafalgar Studios 2
No need for the Kevin Spacey fall back, Richard Teverson who plays John Watherstone was in Brideshead Revisited and Peter Sullivan was in Nathan Barley. Between the two of them they must have met Mr W at some point during filming.