by Terence Rattigan
Festival Theatre, in rep to 4 August.
Runs 2 hours 50 minutes. One interval
Tickets 01243 781312 Online www.cft.org.uk
Review Timothy Ramsden 25 July 2001
Classy revival of major 20th century drama.
In the Labour landslide, ration-book England of 1946, Rattigan could have basked imaginatively in a warm Edwardian glow. Not a bit; the Winslow girl is a suffragette, there’s war brewing, trouble in Ireland and a fight, against a secretive establishment shocked to find a mere citizen questioning their judgment, which brings the Winslow family close to ruin. The elder son leaves Oxford, the daughter loses her fiancee, while Arthur Winslow (Edward Hardwicke), visibly declines from forceful heartiness through a walking cane to pallid wheelchair-user. All over a 5 shilling postal order.There’s no weak link in the acting company, but especially fine work from the clearly defined Winslow women, who are far from Edwardian wallflowers. Polly Adams is the family’s true mainstay, shrewd, anxious and good-humoured. Through her, Morahan finds considerable humour, democratic and humanising.
And Elisabeth Dermot Walsh’s Catherine subsumes her radical views and suffragette sympathies within a vital, tactful personality. Good work outside the family too from decent, fumblingly middle-aged family solicitor Desmond Curry (Osmund Bullock) who Catherine might marry simply because she’s touching 30.
As Sir Robert Morton, the barrister who dines with royalty, David Rintoul enters with the sleek menace of a Dracula concealing indigestion but matures into a human person under cross examination by Catherine, his political opposite.
The play’s biggest horror is unspoken. It’s based on the fight by the Archer-Shee family to clear their son’s name. They succeeded and he was killed at Ypres by the age of twenty.