Reviewed by Jamie Chapman Dixon
Directed by the charming Lindsay Posner and based on the true story of George Archer-Shee and his family’s fight for justice in 1908, The Winslow Boy gives everyone something to think about.
Written by Terence Rattigan in 1944/45 and given its award-winning West End and Broadway Debuts in 1946/47 this is a show with a strong history behind it. Starting in Spring 1912 and concluding in the summer of 1914 (slightly before the start of World War 2) we hear the story of one family’s struggle against the law to clear and uphold the name of their youngest child (Ronnie Winslow, played by Charlie Rowe, who gave an incredibly mature performance) and the respect for their family.
Our setting for this wonderful piece of writing is none other than the award-winning Old Vic Theatre. The history and reputation of this theatre is unprecedented and has been iconic since it was built-in 1818. When you approach the theatre you feel like you are in a romance novel (and the inside of the theatre is just as eloquently beautiful). The detail that The Old Vic has is second to none and really is one of my favourite theatres in London.
As the curtain rose, we were introduced to a simple, yet homely living room. Green walls with white Lilly’s on watched over a warm green living room filled with every entity from the maids bell all the way down to the sherry glasses resting on the desk.
The show breezes pass like a breath of fresh air with the occasional touch of humour, with a very quintessentially British feel. The storyline is strong, detailed and engaging throughout yet being incredibly simple to follow. If you’re not a fan of period drama then I would suggest this play as a nice ease into the genre.
My favourite scene from the show has got to be the closing of Act 1. Sir Robert Morton barraging Ronnie Winslow about the incident in question. The scene is powerful, scary and quite simply brilliant. Even the reaction of the other characters on stage was second to none. The scene has a very serious and dramatic feel to it with a beautifully penned twist at the end. There is also a very amusing scene where a female journalist comes to do an interview but seems more interested in the beautiful curtains, than the family’s fight for justice.
I couldn’t fault the costumes in this period drama. Everything was perfect for the era and the detail was sublime. I would have liked to have seen Naomi in a few more hats though (go and see the show and you will understand what I’m talking about).
Deborah Findlay who played the very entertaining, yet quite dim whited mother (Grace Winslow) gave a very solid, warm performance, which really made me feel like if I was ever in any trouble, or had any problems, she would be the first one to go to for a hug.
Naomi Frederick’s portrayal of the head strong and feminist Catherine Winslow could not be faulted. Her performance was eloquent, uplifting and made me want to join In and help in a woman’s rights march. Throughout the show Naomi looked the vision of perfection and her energy always lit up the stage.
Henry Goodman gave the performance of his career with his version of Arthur Winslow, the Father who will never give up the fight. Arthur Winslow is known as a character who has such passion and commitment for his family’s cause (even throughout his health related issues). The casting of Henry for this role really hit the nail on the head and for this reason was one of my favourite performers on the night.
Nick Hendrix was the not so elegant Dickie Winslow. Nicks portrayal as the family outcast and screwup is seen to be done to perfection. His awkward humour and boisterous ways made the audience fall in love with him. No one wanted to see anything bad happen to him.
The three supporting actors Wendy Nottingham (Violet) Peter Sullivan (Sir Robert Morton) and Richard Teverson (John Watherstone) who all gave outstanding performances respectively. Wendy won us over with her casual approach to things and always making sure the audience enjoyed a good chuckle. Peter enthralled us with his knowledge of the law and how fast his words came steaming out of his mouth. Richard’s awkwardness and charm really came through and let’s just say in the first half you wanted to give his character a hug and in the second you wouldn’t have complained to much if he got punched in the face.
The house was sold out and the atmosphere buzzing (and they try to say theatre has lost its class and tradition). This heart warming play really does warm the old cockles on a harsh cold British night. Justice is easy to achieve, right is not.
The Winslow Boy plays at London’s Old Vic Theatre until 25th May 2013. Click here for tickets.