Review: The Winslow Boy (The Genesian Theatre)

genesianVenue: The Genesian Theatre (Sydney NSW), Jan 17 – Feb 14, 2015
Playwright: Terence Rattigan
Director: Nanette Frew
Cast: Matthew Balkus, Meg Mooney, Lois Marsh, David Stewart-Hunter, Sonya Kerr, Lachlan McNab, David Prickett, Tom Massey, Jane Thorpe, Mehran Mortezaei, Roger Gimblett

Theatre review
Terence Rattigan’s 1946 work The Winslow Boy centres around the theme, “let right be done”, and its distinction from the concept of attaining justice. Not a great deal is made of this intellectual dissection in Nanette Frew’s direction, but in place of philosophical depth is quaint nostalgia and lighthearted entertainment. The interpretation is anti-naturalistic, with more than a hint of stylistic emulation of English theatre and life in the 1910s, resulting in a production that is staid and distant to begin with, but slowly warms up to something that is ultimately quite delightful.

There are good performances in the piece, including Sonya Kerr who plays Catherine Winslow, a suffragette finding her way through a changing world for women. Kerr is vibrant and playful, bringing a fun liveliness to the space. Her enthusiasm is not always matched by colleagues, but her persistence pays off and she creates the most engaging character of the show. In the role of Sir Robert Morton is Roger Gimblett whose chemistry with Kerr is a highlight. Gimblett is a dynamic actor who delivers effective drama, but would benefit with greater familiarity with his lines. The master of the house Arthur Winslow is performed with elegant gravity by David Stewart-Hunter who is a convincing patriarch, if a little oversubtle in approach.

Many audiences love a period piece, and Genesian’s The Winslow Boy satisfies on some levels. Cosmetically, it is well put together (especially Sandra Bass’ hats and Sharon Case’s wigs), but much of the execution feels surface, with characterisations and storytelling requiring further development. The production gives its creators much to be pleased about, but bars can always be raised higher in artistic expression, even when tackling a century old tale.