Terence Rattigan’s 1946 play ‘The Winslow Boy’ is the story of fourteen year old Ronnie Winslow and his family’s fight to prove his innocence after an accusation of theft at the Royal Naval College at Osbourne. The play, based on a true incident, is full of subtle social commentary and moral dilemmas that encompass one’s duty to the heart and obligations to the family.
This production, directed by Nanette Frew, did fairly well to keep up with the pace of Rattigan’s writing and overall delivered a rather polished performance.
Unfortunately, there were a few little things that hindered the production from being ‘fantastic’.
In terms of blocking, you had actors moving mindlessly merely to accommodate other characters. After standing up from reading on the lounge to kiss her father, what motivation does Catherine have to move to the other chair to continue reading – apart from not overcrowding stage right?
Having said that, even when there was little blocking, it felt unnatural. Characters would stand facing each other in a way that seemed less due to a formality and more so of awkwardness, leaving the scene rather stagnant.
The blocking should generally accompany the script. Instead, what we had here at times was a gag emerging from the discrepancies – Violet asks Ronnie for a kiss, gets a hug. This would be fine given a little consistency – mother asks Ronny for a kiss, gets a kiss. I could pin it down to the closeness of relationships, but from the audience’s perspective (laughing) it just felt like a lack attention detail.
On that note, the devil is in the detail; so when Ronnie shows up “all wet” and “shivering” I expect the lad not to be bone dry. I can suspend my disbelief but not when the rest of the production was designed for realism.
Set design by Owen Gimblett was accurate for the period, but the actors’ interaction in the space did beg questions about his use of space. Although aesthetically pleasing and superficially quite practical, there was an awkward amount of movement behind this chair and that chair and around that area over there. Perhaps it was a lack of familiarity or maybe it comes down to the blocking, but it did seem like the performers had to weave through the set a little too conscientiously to be comfortable.
Grace and Arthurs Winslow (Lois Marsh, David Stewart-Hunter) were very well cast and fulfilled their roles to a tee. Sonya Kerr also gave a striking performance in her role as Catherine Winslow, Ronnie’s strong, independent and forward-thinking sister.
Tom Massey, who played Desmond, deserves a special round of applause. He made his narrative the most endearing but by no means the most important. He left me wanting him to be rewritten into more scenes, but didn’t detract from or undermine the plights of the other characters.
Likewise with Roger Gimblett in the role of Sir Robert Morton. Although a more significant part, he carried himself with such confidence and performed with a particular finesse which not only made his scenes more enjoyable, but the production as a whole.
The Genesian’s performance of ‘The Winslow Boy’ was true to the story and followed the line of most adaptations. Thanks to a traditional approach and a talented cast, this production didn’t fall short of Rattigan’s writing.