As The Winslow Boy comes to an end at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, we had the amazing opportunity to see it days before it finishes completely. The Terence Rattigan play started on 21 February 2018 and will end on 3 March 2018; this means you have days left, after reading this review, to book the final remaining tickets to see this amazing production.
The family drama is based on a true story, the Archer-Shee case, although with various slight changes. The original case was about George Archer-Shee who entered the Royal Naval College in Osbourne House in 1907 as a naval cadet. A year later, a five-shilling postal order went missing and an investigation into the matter lead to them believing that George Archer-Shee stole it after buying his own 15 shillings and sixpence postal order for himself at the post office.
The story continues as his father, Martin Archer-Shee, hires Solicitor General Sir Edward Carson to defend his son. They fight to get the case to court. Terence Rattigan took the story and turned it into a play which premiered on 23 May 1946 at the Lyric Theatre. Then, in 1948 he wrote the film script; the film was released in that year. In 1999, David Mamet directed and wrote the screenplay for a remake of the film. Now, it’s been revived again at The Birmingham Repertory Theatre, and there are just two days left.
The story is set a few years later than the George Archer-Shee case; in 1914-18. Ronnie Winslow – played by Misha Butler (Kiss Me First) – is sent home after a five shilling postal order has been stolen; the woman at the post office claims it was the same person who bought a 15 shilling and sixpence postal order, and so Ronnie Winslow arrives home with a letter for his father, Arthur Winslow – played by Aden Gillett (The House of Elliott, Shadow of the Vampire, The Winslow Boy ) – asking for him to withdraw his son from the college. After talking to Ronnie Winslow, he believes that his son isn’t a thief and decides to fight for what is right.
This dominates the whole play as various slight storylines go on from the strain of the 30-year marriage between Arthur Winslow and his wife, Grace Winslow – played by Tessa Peake-Jones (Only Fools and Horses, Grantchester, Marchlands, The Demon Headmaster) – to Catherine Winslow – played by Dorothea Myer-Bennett (The Payback, The Honourable Rebel) – who is a suffragette, fighting for women’s right to vote, where she is the organising secretary of the West London branch of the Women’s Suffrage Association.
The story keeps you gripped until the very end, with twists and turns throughout. The Winslow Boy will always appeal to current times. There is always a group of people fighting for what they believe in, whether that was in the 1940’s, when the play premiered, as women started to benefit during the upheavals of the Second World War; to now, when women are still fighting for their rights in the #MeToo movement as well as the gender pay gap. The Catherine Winslow side-story will forever hold significance, especially alongside the main storyline as the whole family are fighting for the boy’s innocence.
The whole cast brings The Winslow Boy to life, with Timothy Watson (BBC Radio 4’s The Archers, Mr Selfridge) playing Sir Robert Morton impeccably; he manages to embody the part capturing every single viewer. Then, there’s Misha Butler, it’s his professional stage debut and he nails the role of Ronnie Winslow; so full of life, the audience is drawn in by his character portrayal.
Other cast include Soo Drouet, who plays the maid, Violet; Theo Bamber, who plays the brother, Dickie Winslow; William Belchambers, who plays Catherine Winslow’s fiancé, John Watherstone; Geff Francis, who plays Desmond Curry; Sarah Lambie, who plays Miss Barnes; and Oscar Morgan, who plays Fred.
The Winslow Boy at the Birmingham Rep is totally a production we would see again. It was directed by Rachel Kavanaugh, and completely worth watching if you ever get the chance. It has just two dates left at The Rep, so get your tickets while you still can.