The Lowry, Salford – until 14 April 2018
Guest reviewer: Megan Hyland
Terence Rattigan’s The Winslow Boy is a touching story of a father’s laboured fight to clear his son’s name after he is expelled from his naval college for stealing a five-shilling postal order. Based on the trial of George Archer-Shee, this production is a timeless portrayal of just how much a family will sacrifice for one another. And though the staple of the plot may seem simplistic, The Winslow Boy is, in fact, a complex tale of sacrifice, convictions and love.
Director Rachel Kavanaugh (The Wind in the Willows) has orchestrated a seamless and charming performance, inviting us into the Winslows’ microcosm of hardship and unwavering faith in the cause for good. The play is set entirely in one room of the Winslow home, which at first may seem rather limited, but in fact, makes the performance feel altogether more intimate and personal. Rather than follow titular character Ronnie Winslow to the courtroom, we hear about the outside world through the musings of the other characters, making the audience feel like another part of the family.
The cast is exceptional, bringing a new life and energy to Rattigan’s characters. Aden Gillett (The House of Eliott) commands the stage as Arthur Winslow, his bellowing voice and sharp-tongued wit capturing the audience. He begins the play as the authoritative archetype of an Edwardian father but gradually breaks the character down in a beautiful portrayal of a father’s sacrifice for his son and his pride.
Dorothea Myer-Bennett delivers another stand-out performance as Catherine Winslow, Ronnie’s strong-willed, suffragette sister. Told that she is fighting not one, but two lost causes – the case of her brother and women’s right to vote – no characters sacrifice more than she and her father. Myer-Bennett gives an emotionally raw performance as a modern woman straddling the bridge between rigid values and change. As Catherine, she is both moving and inspiring, creating a character that still resonates and reminds us of the strength of the women that brought us where we are today.
Also to note is Michael Taylor’s beautifully meticulous set and costume design, bringing to life the Winslow’s Edwardian home and lifestyle. A particularly subtle but nice touch is how the costumes depict the Winslow’s gradually deteriorating wealth as they pump more money into the trial, as well as Arthur’s declining health. Little details such as this only add to the play’s authenticity, such as Tim Lutkin’s innovative lighting design, beautifully imitating the golden hue of a sunny afternoon in the second act.
The Winslow Boy is by no means a fast-paced production, however, it is an upliftingly charming slow-burner that is full of heart and honesty. Rattigan’s truly powerful dialogue, coupled with Kavanaugh’s subtle directing style create a piece that is undeniably touching and that audiences will not be quick to forget.