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The Winslow Boy Review

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★★★★

On the face of it, you wouldn’t expect the thoroughly modern wordsmith David Mamet, noted for his insistent speech rhythms and poetic profanity, to have much affinity for ever so English dramatist, Sir Terence Rattigan. But Mamet is a connoisseur of well chosen language and tight construction, two vital elements of Rattigan’s original play.

Set on the eve of WWl and based on a true story, The Winslow Boy is about a small crisis that becomes a national issue when an ordinary man challenges the powers that be. Thirteen-year-old naval cadet Ronnie Winslow (Guy Edwards), accused of stealing a five shilling postal order, is sent home in disgrace, branded a thief and a forger. His father (Hawthorne, in superb form) is aghast that the boy has been denied the right to defend himself and embarks on a course of great sacrifices to clear his son’s name.

To navigate passage through the Admiralty and Parliament to king and court, the Winslows retain renowned barrister and MP Sir Robert Morton (Northam), a cool, enigmatic conservative whose reasons for taking the case intrigue Winslow’s committed suffragette daughter, Catherine (Pidgeon, Mamet’s English wife and regular collaborator).

Mamet ingeniously conveys the public furore around the case with its elevation to media sensation, also highlighting its still-topical social themes while retaining Rattigan’s intimate gaze. Cleverly, this is a courtroom drama that never actually sees the inside of the courtroom, selecting various and well-drawn minor characters to report on what’s happening, providing suspense, despair and exultation with no histrionics. Immaculately, subtly played, crafted with witty, tragic and eloquent detail, this is compelling stuff.