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The Winslow Boy at The Old Vic

Leigh Hatts

Terence Rattigan's play The Winslow Boy at The Old Vic is a pre-World War One story with many 21st-century resonances.

The play was written 65 years ago when the story of a naval cadet's dismissal was still remembered. It could be said that the slant on women's suffrage and press standards are those of the 1940s but one must keep in mind that Rattigan had amassed old press cuttings and always did thorough research.

The set by Peter McKintosh is an often sunny drawing room with surprisingly uncluttered walls. An early HMV gramophone and candlestick telephone are the key props for dating the interior.

This is the world of a family used to the postal order, evening newspapers with near verbatim parliamentary reports, much-loved domestic staff and young men who seek permission to marry.

The boy Ronnie, played by Charlie Row whose television appearances include Robin Hood, is an important character but not the star.

On stage nearly all the time is Henry Goodman as the father who is retired Victorian banker Arthur Winslow trying to come to terms with the older son's modern music and a daughter's feminism. He manages to age gently over the traumatic years which bring his family to the brink of public break-up.

His wife Grace (played by Deborah Findlay who has appeared in Rattigan's Separate Tables), daughter Catherine (Naomi Frederick), maid Violet (Wendy Nottingham) and reporter Miss Barnes (Sia Berkeley) all have hidden powers.

Peter Sullivan as the top lawyer Sir Robert Morton brings pace as his appearances move the story on in the search for justice and maybe truth.

This is a simple story with enough hints of various possible twists and turns to keep those unfamiliar with the story enthralled for three hours. Anyone who has seen one of the earlier productions will not be disappointed.

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