‘A well-crafted drama’

Scene from The Winslow Boy, at the Octagon, Bolton. Photo: Ian Tilton
Scene from The Winslow Boy, at the Octagon, Bolton. Photo: Ian Tilton
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Review: “The Winslow Boy”, at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton, until April 21st.

Box office: 01204 520661. Web: www.octagonbolton.co.uk

David Thacker’s production of Terence Rattigan’s famous play “The Winslow Boy” is an absorbing evening of good actors in a well-crafted drama.

Rattigan based the plot on a real life court-room drama of 1908 to 1910 when George Archer-Shee, a navel cadet, was accused of forging a signature on the five shilling postal order of a fellow cadet.

His family took the case to court to prove his innocence and the long and complicated legal procedures took more than three years. Rattigan focuses on the effects that this lengthy and expensive process has on the family, now called Winslow, the father Arthur (Christopher Ravenscroft) the mother Grace (Suzan Sylvester), the elder brother Dickie (Iestyn Arwel) and most of all the passionate suffragette sister Catherine (Georgina Strawson) with her fiancé John (Ted Holden) and her admirer Desmond (Huw Higginson).

An excellent cast reveal all the complexities of these characters. Therein lies Rattigan’s strength. We feel for them all, their doubts and hopes and determination or lack of it. Christopher Villiers plays the intriguing role of Sir Robert Morton, the barrister who reveals more than is first suspected. Although the setting is clearly Edwardian, one cannot help thinking of more recent families who have fought long and hard for legal justice at great cost, both economic and emotional.

Another personal delight reminded me of the skill of theatre actors. Several of the cast impressed me in the Octagon’s previous production of Macbeth and here they are, so effective in such different parts. I am also looking forward with a sense of excited anticipation to the Octagon’s next production, “The Queen of the North”, a world premiere of the story of Pat Phoenix aka Elsie Tanner of Corrie. If it is as good as last year’s “Demolition Man”, about Fred Dibnah, it should be well worth seeing.