Inspired by a true story, The Winslow Boy is a fine example of a play which makes a mountain out of a molehill, blowing the tiniest incident out of proportion in this strangely unsatisfying naturalistic farce. Squeezing as much plot out of the play as humanly possible, unfortunately for this Lace Market Theatre production directed by Bob Wildgust, there is still very little substance for the cast and crew to work with.
Centred on the Winslow family’s quest to prove their boy’s innocence after he is accused of stealing five shillings and subsequently expelled from school, the plot halts here. Trying to explore themes of family pride, the idea of right and wrong and even touching upon the feminist regime, despite the best efforts from the cast and most likely due to the script, not one of these ideas fully comes to light.
The palaver with the Winslow boy surprisingly impacts every member the family, jeopardising sister Catherine’s (Gemma Barritt) marriage and brother Dickie’s education prospects. Subplots such as these attempt to creep through but are overshadowed by a ridiculous context.
However, in this ensemble cast there are some strong performances. Robert Suttle as Arthur, the Winslow father, receives the most laughs and deservedly so; his banter and mocking of the others make him quite the likeable fellow. Beverley Anthony as Grace, the Winslow mother, proceeds with an air of Mrs Bennett, nailing the stereotype of a doting interfering mother, but shows little depth in character as the play progresses.
Lawrence Everett (Dickie), Ian Baxter (Desmond) and Graeme Jennings (Sir Robert) provide necessary comic relief in their supporting roles, their occasional one liners delivered with impressive timing. Some unnecessarily long blackouts combined with a few line prompts can be put down to opening night nerves. A fan of Strictly Come Dancing though, I did particularly enjoy the tangent exploring dance culture, later followed by a ‘kangaroo hop’ routine performed by Winslow brother and sister.
Judging by the crowd assembled at the Lace Market Theatre last night, I think it is safe to assume that this production does not aim to attract a student audience. Characters themselves arguing there are surely ‘more important matters to get worked up about than a fourteen year old boy and a five shilling postal order’, occasionally the cast do manage to offer up some shining moments. Following the progress of the Winslow boy’s case for a two year period, I am afraid to say that sometimes it well and truly feels like it! Beige costumes, a beige set and beige furniture pretty much sums up this production.
All images: Mark James
The Winslow Boy runs from 11th-16th March at The Lace Market Theatre. For ticket info go to: http://www.lacemarkettheatre.co.uk/