Based on a real life 1908 case in which a young cadet was expelled from the Royal Naval College for allegedly stealing a five shilling postal order, Terence Rattigan’s accomplished 1946 drama moves the event forward a few years to the period just before the First World War and restricts the action to the family’s Kensington drawing room.
It is here that paterfamilias Arthur Winslow, a retired bank employee, decides that his 14 year old son Ronnie (who vehemently protests his innocence) should have the right to a fair trial and solicits the services of a high profile barrister (Peter Sullivan’s arrogant Sir Robert Morton) to take on the establishment and secure justice for his boy.
Over a two year period, we hear about the slow progress of the case – and witness the human and financial cost to the whole Winslow family as the battle continues.
Whilst young Ronnie himself has moved on (as much, anyway, as the intrusive press coverage will permit – no change there, then) the futures of both his older brother and suffragette sister are compromised in different ways.
But despite the remonstrations of his wife (Deborah Findlay) and his own deteriorating health, Henry Goodman’s convincing Arthur rarely wobbles in his steadfast belief that his son should be given the chance to clear his name.
Lindsay Posner’s straightforward production makes no attempt to hide the fact that this is very much a period piece – but one whose central themes still resonate.
Old Vic, The Cut, SE1 8NB
Until 25th May
(some tickets for £12 bookable in advance for under 25s)
Photo: Nobby Clark