The Winslow Boy by Terence Rattigan, adapted by Ian Cotterell

Contact Us

The Winslow Boy on BBC Radio 4 Extra

BBC Radio 4 Extra, 20 October 2012
This 1981 production of Rattigan's classic has been broadcast more than once on Radio 4 Extra (it last appeared in June 2011, as part of the BBC's comprehensive celebration of the dramatist's centenary), but it never loses its lustre.
Premiered in 1946, The Winslow Boy is based on an actual incident, in which fourteen-year-old Ronnie Winslow (John McAndrew) is falsely accused of stealing a five-shilling postal order, and expelled from the Royal Naval College.  Eventually his name is cleared, but only after the intervention of eminent QC Sir Robert Morton (Aubrey Woods), who takes the case to the House of Commons and the High Court.  The play celebrates the Winslow family's fight for justice, as they are prepared to sacrifice everything, both materially and emotionally.  Arthur Winslow (Michael Aldridge) puts his own health at risk, while daughter Kate (Sarah Badel) gives up on a prosperous marriage.
Ian Cotterell's straightforward production contrasted on the clash of personalities, ranging from the cold fish Morton - who sacrificed everything, including his emotions, to the demands of his job as a QC - to the patient Grissil-like Grace Winslow (Pauline Letts), who frequently worried about her family's future.  Her spose Arthur, as portrayed by Aldridge, was a well-meaning person, who probably would have been satisfied with a mundane life until the case came up.  From then on he behaved like a man possessed; his son's name had to be cleared at all costs.  Arthur's passion contrasted with the emotional shortcomings solicitor Desmond Curry (Michael Spice), who could never find the right words to express his feelings. On legal matters he was wonderfully articulate; but tongue-tied with everything else.
And there was McAndrew's Ronnie, the subject of the entire case, who tried to live a normal life amidst the extraordinary circumstances taking place around him.  Although trying desperately to maintain interest, it was clear he would rather spend a afternoon at the local cinema rather than go to court.  Through Ronnie director Cotterell encouraged us to reflect on the merits of the case: did the Winslows do the right thing by pursuing it to its farthest extent, or would they have been better off abandoning the whole thing?  The production gave us no clear answer: while it ended happily, we wondered what would happen to the family next, now that they had sacrified everything.