By Terence Rattigan
Chichester Festival Theatre to June 25
Chichester, West Sussex PO19 6AP
Runs 3hrs withl 20 min interval
TICKETS: 01243 781 312;
Review: by Carole Woddis of performance seen June 11, 2016:
Another look at another Rattigan – it stands the test of time.
`Curioser and curiouser’ as Alice might have said is the myth behind the story of Lawrence of Arabia. T E Lawrence – or as William Boyd reminds us in his fascinating programme note, `Chapman’, not `Lawrence’ – took on many forms, Aircraftsman Ross being just one and later, alluded to in Howard Brenton’s recent Lawrence After Arabia (see last month’s Hampstead review), Private Shaw.
Coincidence or serendipity that brings Rattigan’s 1960s play into conjunction with Brenton’s more revisionist view on T.E’s desire to `disappear’ after his desert escapades, perhaps simply it is 2016 being the centenary of the Arab Revolt that brings them together.
Whatever, they make a fascinating pair. And though Brenton’s is a more sideways glance, Rattigan’s Ross certainly stands the test of time – at least it does in Adrian Noble’s handsome revival taking full advantage of Chichester’s wide open stage.
William Dudley’s dominating, hieroglyphic inscribed pillars (referencing Lawrence’s writings and archaeological interests) frame a richly detailed production that never lets us forget a culture manipulated by Britain, with the connivance and passion of Lawrence, that, by implication, has contributed to the morass that is the Middle East today.
At its heart, winningly played by Joseph Fiennes – charismatic but faltering – is Lawrence himself, book-ended by Rattigan skulking away in the RAF but at the end, when exposed by his fame, catapulted out.
In between in this all-male world, flashbacks run through the by now well-known events chronicled by Lawrence, aided by newsreel clips. A play of opposing personalities, sparks fly between Paul Freeman’s General Allenby, all soldierly necessity and Fiennes’ scholarly complex celebrity, at once flamboyant, ambitious and ever so slightly retiring.
Given Rattigan’s own personality, he shows a gnawing sense of guilt and shame lying at the heart of his eponymous hero and a Turkish Governor (played with fiendish relish by Michael Feast) on hand, like a demonic inner conscience, to give Lawrence, through torture and physical humiliation, a lesson in self-knowledge.
Crisply accurate – watch how those RAF recruits drill to Brendan Hooper’s barking Flight Sergeant – Ross does nothing to puncture or reduce the Lawrence myth but still makes damned good theatre.
By Terence Rattigan
Flight Lieutenant Stoker: Benjamin Wainwright
Flight Sergeant Thompson: Brendan Hooper
Aircraftman Parsons: Gary Shelford
Aircraftman Evans: Rick Yale
Aircraftman Dickinson: John Hopkins
Aircraftman Ross: Joseph Fiennes
Mouth Organist: Christopher Walters
Franks: Nick Sampson
General Allenby: Paul Freeman
Ronald Storrs: Peter Sandys-Clarke
Colonel Barrington: Ian Drysdale
Sheik Auda Abu Tayi: Peter Polycarpou
Turkish Military Governor: Michael Feast
Hamed: Nicholas Prasad
Rashid: Eben Figueiredo
Turkish Captain: Jay Saighal
Turkish Sergeant: Navinder Bhatti
Kerim: Jorell Coiffic-Kamall
A.D.C: Benjamin Wainwright
Photographer: Brendan Hooper
Flight Lieutenant Higgins: John Hopkins
RAF Corporal: Christopher Walters
Group Captain Woods: Nick Sampson
Other parts played by members of the company
Director: Adrian Noble
Designer: William Dudley
Lighting Designer: Paul Pyant
Music: Mia Soteriou
Sound Designer: Paul Groothuis
Casting Director: Gabrielle Dawes
Assistant Director: Alice Malin
Associate Lighting Designer: David Howe
Video System Engineer: Tim Baxter
Voice and Dialect Coach: Zabarjad Salam
First perf of this production of Ross at the Festival Theatre, June 3, 2016
First produced by H M Tennent Ltd and the Theatre Royal Haymarket, London on May 12, 1960
More info: see www.cft.org.uk