THE WINSLOW Boy at the Birmingham Rep by Terence Rattigan is based on a real case, echoing a titanic struggle of one individual’s cry for justice against the closed ranks of class and hierarchy.
Aiden Gillet is compelling as the mesmeric bank manager, Arthur Winslow.
When he first confronts his young son who has been expelled from naval college for allegedly stealing a postal order; it is like watching a cobra unrelentingly staring at its prey.
Ronnie Winslow, an engagingly doe-eyed Misha Butler, stands his ground. When his father tells him ‘a lie between us cannot be hidden’ his reply stating his innocence rebounds truthfully.
There then follows a two-year battle in which Arthur almost bankrupts his family both socially and financially in his relentless pursuit of justice.
Tessa Peake-Jones is delightful as his wife Grace who struggles to maintain standards and appearances as her world crumbles. Daughter Catherine (the performance of the night by Dorothea Myer-Bennet) sees her fiancé backing out of their proposed marriage. Neatly, her back-story of being a leading member of the suffragette movement makes this production naturally relevant in the current climate of female empowerment.
If the opening encounter with his father were not terrifying enough, it pales alongside the interrogation young Ronnie receives from Sir Robert Morton – played by Timothy Watson as a cap doffed to Sherlock Holmes. He takes up the mantle and leads the charge.
Seeing the magnificent drawing room reduced in splendour throughout the play as paintings are sold leaving bare walls, watching Arthur going from standing commandingly and dressing impeccably to cardigans and the confines of a wheelchair shows the tragic costs of the fight.
The family is bruised and tired. When the verdict eventually comes in and twelve just men and true verify Ronnie’s innocence only Violet the maid (Soo Drouet) is in court to hear it. She acts out an amusing blow-by-blow account to the family and they can at last emerge from the bunker behind which they have closed ranks.
The Winslow Boy was always a great play, but director Rachel Kavanaugh has brilliantly given it modern day relevance.