BYLINE: Richard Foreman
“Let right be done.” This phrase and clarion call to justice lies at the heart of Terence Rattigan’s marvellous play The Winslow Boy. The play follows the story of Arthur Winslow’s attempts to prove his son Ronnie’s innocence, after Ronnie is accused of stealing a five-shilling postal order and expelled from naval college. This seemingly mundane case, however (based upon a genuine incident from the Edwardian era) impacts upon the whole Winslow family, and also the government of the day. First performed in 1946 The Winslow Boy still resonates and entertains due to its wonderful wit and humanity. Rattigan’s wry comments on the press, the middle class and the political establishment still have the ability to make an audience think and also laugh out loud.
Henry Goodman commands the stage and our sympathies as Arthur Winslow. He is ably supported by actress Naomi Frederick, who plays the suffragette daughter Catherine Winslow – a character who is as proud and prejudiced as any Jane Austen heroine. Although Jeremy Northam (who played the role of the cold yet brilliant lawyer Sir Robert Morton in the film adaptation of the play) casts a long shadow I was eventually won over by Peter Sullivan’s performance too.
Towards the end of the play Sir Robert Morton posits that it is “easy to do justice, very hard to do right.” Because of the polished gem of Rattigan’s script it is easy to put on a good production of The Winslow Boy, but very hard still to put on a great one. Kevin Spacey and the director Lindsay Posner should be duly congratulated for achieving the latter.