Cambridge's leading amateur theatre production company

Established 1981

The Winslow Boy
 by Terence Rattigan   directed by Sally Marsh

The ADC Theatre, Cambridge, July 2002

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A Review of The Winslow Boy
by Nick Warburton

It's easy to see why this play has been so popular over the years. It tells a David and Goliath story in which a modest middle-class man battles against the might of the establishment. It has many very good scenes - perhaps slightly too many for modern tastes - and two particularly wonderful ones. This was a very secure production and it nailed these key scenes brilliantly. The first comes just before the interval when Sir Robert Morton grills young Ronnie before deciding to take the case. The second is the moment when the news of the final victory is brought home. This important message is not carried by one of the toffs but, rather in the Greek fashion, by Violet, the maid. In Rosemary Eason's expert hands this was riveting and very touching.

The play opens with young Ronnie sacked by the Admiralty for pinching a postal order. Only in England, I suspect, would you find an establishment stuffy enough to manage this in such a pompous and high-handed fashion, or a little man dogged enough to stand firm against them. Arthur is determined to do what is right for his family. The irony is that, in spite of several faltering attempts, he doesn't know how to talk to either of his sons. Derek Brown seemed well aware of this sad failure in Arthur's character, and his was a very fine performance, combining deft comic timing with heartfelt truth.

His relationship with his daughter Catherine is another matter- they understand and respect each other - and one of the most satisfying aspects of this production was the excellent playing between the two. Catherine is bright, idealistic and prickly. Suzanne Jones gave us all this with some dazzling light touches. Martin Woodruff had great natural authority as Sir Robert, but also hinted at the loneliness of this very public figure. Brenda Cottis, as Grace Winslow, was sweet and simple (Dickie clearly took after his mother) and endlessly patient. She was excellent when she abandoned her poise and charm for a moment to tell her husband what she really thought. He looked devastated, as would any one of us, I imagine.

All the cast did well. Steven Leadley as Ronnie was strongest when it mattered most (during the grilling by Sir Robert); Sasha Roberts was shallow but charming as Dickie; Julian Cooper managed to be likeable (and therefore more interesting) as the dull and pompous John Watherstone. Colin Lawrence was successfully timid and noble as the faithful family lawyer. They were well supported by a garrulous Rosie Wilson and a laconic Ken Eason.

There was a clever set by Carole Sammon who wisely decided against filling the stage with walls and who also added a useful extra level. Unobtrusive but telling lighting (Ed Hopkins) and splendid costumes (Margaret Thorp) also helped to create the world of the play.

Sally Marsh's sharp and truthful production reminded me how funny The Winslow Boy is. I'd forgotten all those witty remarks - mostly lobbed backwards and forwards between father and daughter Winslow - and some of the delightful comedy Rattigan created through acute observation of character. But its main strength is in its first class narrative, and at the ADC in July it was given to us by a first class team.