London 1912. Ronnie Wilson, a little wee 13-year-old naval cadet, is given the boot out of Naval College for allegedly stealing a five-shilling postal note. His old man, Arthur Winslow begins an all-consuming attempt to prove his son’s innocence. From a small tiny matter, it grew to a nation’s obsession as a family was driven to its limits and pushed ultimately to its downfall.
Yep, from here on we go into the usual story of the little man’s fight against injustice. In essence this play is a courtroom drama without the courtroom. Sounds boring but Ross Jolly pulls it off well. This is gritty and cheesy fun in a 1900s English Theatre piece. Above all, it is a great production of contemporary classical theatre.
First, the set is utterly fantastic. For those who want to see what a set should look like for a classical production, pay your money and ogle.
The attention to detail is sensational with the proper wall trims and lavishing carpets for the period. More so, the designers really have made an astounding effort to make the world beyond the stage feel concrete and real. When it rains during the earlier scenes, the windows are showered in water, making Wellington’s rain seem like a drizzle. When the press bark outside the house, it does feel like an armada of journalists and photographers are there. My personal favourite is the stairs that exist behind the main entry point for the actors. Its looks so remarkably genuine that for a moment I thought Circa had built an actual house in their theatre.
For the actors who read this, I trust you will be familiar with how easily anyone can ruin a 1900s British role, but the performers here never take once to the useless whining and annoying highs of Coronation Street, and instead deliver a finely tuned performance. Jude Gibson, who plays Grace Winslow, the mother, is utterly loveable.
Remember when you were four and cuddling your teddy bear? You will get the same effect watching her. Simon Vincent’s performance of Dickie Winslow is addictive as you wait for him to enter the stage once more to give another demonstration of what we can translate into what happens at Maya. Although these two have their moments of brilliance, they do not receive as much limelight as Jeffery Thomas, the lead actor who plays Arthur Winslow, the father. Although his performance was soothing and excellent, I was left asking for more from the minor roles that became the gems of the acting during this production.
I wanted to hate the play. I wanted to say it was too British, too old and too classical. I wanted to throw an axe at Ronnie Winslow who never fails to smile in the ads. I wanted to say it was too long in running time. But because it is so polished, because it is remarkably well produced and designed, I can’t say it’s rubbish. Bugger.
By Terence Rattigan
Directed By Ross Jolly
till October 6