Terence Rattigan’s 1946 play The Winslow Boy is being directed by award-winning Linsay Posner that is coming to The Old Vic. It is one of Terence’s best works as it is a drama of stately simplicity which could be accused of being dated but it is a well-crafted piece that excels due to its sharp interest in the media frenzy over a trivial issue.
The plot of The Winslow Boy is set in Edwardian England and it is based on a true story of a young naval cadet who is wrongfully convicted for stealing a five-shilling postal order. This trivial issue sparks a media storm and debate that ultimately reaches the House of Commons. At the core of the story is the Edwardian bank worker Arthur Winslow, played by Henry Goodman. His family includes his daughter Catherine, his son Dickie, and his wife Grace, who is a faded beauty with pretentious tastes. Goodman displays his capacity for dry wit and a firmness that is toned by some signs of frailty.
Arthur’s teenage son Ronnie is thrown out of naval college after he was accused of stealing a five-shilling postal order. Arthur fights back saying that the investigation was mishandled and tries to save his son’s honour. An eminent lawyer, Sir Robert Morton, is engaged by Arthur, who is shown to be a man of unlimited vanity and cynicism. Catherine writes him off but Morton proves her wrong. However, his interrogation of Ronnie seems to be too fierce and strident.
More than the legal wrangling, the focus is on the human cost of doing the right thing. The play stresses on what it means to be strongly attached to principle. It displays the need of the individual to withstand the might of the establishment. The play is elegantly funnier than usual although none of its poise and poignancy is sacrificed. It is on until May 25.
The Old Vic Theatre has had a greater influence on the history of drama than any other theatre today, with the exception of The Globe. It has played host to generation after generation of stars since it started in 1818.