Terence Rattigan Centenary

Created in February 2011, this page provides information on the work, in theater and film, of the British playwright Sir Terence Rattigan (1911-1977). It will be updated throughout the year.

Though [Rattigan's] twenty-four plays are not flawless, the clarity of conception and construction in the majority [is] outstanding. They have "good bones"--a prime requisite for aging well, and a startling contrast with the degrees of calcium deficiency evident in other playwrights of the last thirty years. . . .
It will take time and greater familiarity with Rattigan's plays for . . . critics to shed prejudices against well-made plays, to appreciate Rattigan's meticulous craftsmanship, and to recognise all the levels of meaning within it. . . .
Rattigan's work will be better and more widely appreciated when the universality of the psychological problems he dramatizes is acknowledged. . . .
The respect for individuals conveyed in Rattigan's characterizations was extended to his actors and audiences through the trust he placed in both. This trust, which rests upon [his] use of dramatic implication, is proving well-founded with succeeding generations of performers and playgoers. . . .
Rattigan's ability to challenge actors and to stir audiences lives [on].
- Holly Hill, "Rattigan's Renaissance," Aristos, inaugural issue, June 1982 (posted online in Aristos, February 2011; see link below)

NOTE: Celebration of Terence Rattigan's centenary is in full swing in the U.K., as documented on the official website devoted to him and on the Facebook page for the centenary. Productions of Rattigan plays abound there, and the British press is taking ample note. Sad to say, however, America has thus far been virtually oblivious of the occasion. Only five theater companies here (and one in Canada) have mounted or announced productions or readings (see below).

Thus far, just one critic, Terry Teachout--writing in the aptly titled "Terence Rattigan, Forgotten Centenarian" (see comment by Louis Torres), Wall Street Journal, April 1, 2011--has marked the occasion. See also Teachout's weblog entry on Rattigan, consisting of an excerpt of the Journal article and a brief video of a scene from the 1951 film version of The Browning Version. Teachout reviewed the 2011 revival of Rattigan's Man and Boy in the October 11 edition of the Wall Street Journal (see link to "Fraud in the Family" below).

Readers are urged to contact the editors of Aristos regarding new U.S. productions of the plays, as well as reviews and relevant articles (both online and print). Suggestions and corrections for this page are always welcome.


Websites

* Terence Rattigan
* Answers.com
* Facebook


Plays

* Timeline and Synopsis


Plays: Centenary Productions in the United States (and Canada)

* The Winslow Boy, Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey [more] [on the Drew University campus], Lend Us Your Ears play-reading series, November 14, Madison, New Jersey.

* Man and Boy, Roundabout Theatre, previews, September 11; opens October 9, New York City. Reviews (see below).

"Man for Another Season: Frank Langella Returning to Broadway in 'Man and Boy,'" New York Times, 5/5/11. "Frank Look at Biz Scandal: Langella Set to Play Ponzi Scammer in 1963 Play," New York Post, 4/20/11.

* The Winslow Boy, Stage Center Productions, September 29-October 8, West Hill, Ontario, Canada.

* In Praise of Love, TheaterSounds (a play-reading series in the Hudson Valley), Saturday, August 13, Kingston, New York (Directions). A gala celebration of the 10th Anniversary of TheaterSounds and the 100th Anniversary of Rattigan. Admission is free. See review (April 6) by Charles Spencer, theater critic of the Telegraph, of the recent London production of this play. (Spencer won a retroactive 1996 Aristos Award for comments on Samuel Beckett.)

Previous Readings (2001-2006) (Note: Though the TheaterSounds website is outdated, its play-reading series has remained active.)

* Separate Tables, Hillbarn Theatre, March 10-27, Foster City, Calif. (According to the Hillbarn, this production of the play "pokes a little fun at the repressed mores of the 1950s [and] . . . will make you laugh about some of the outmoded conventions in our past." Rattigan does not "poke fun" at such mores, however, as the 1958 film version of Separate Tables amply attests, and as Holly Hill implies in emphasizing the profound nature of Rattigan's "psychological portraiture" [see "Rattigan's Renaissance"]. Nonetheless, the Hillbarn is to be commended for mounting the play, and its production may still be worth seeing.)

* After the Dance," Standing O Productions, February 4-12 at the Chesapeake Academy Black Box Theatre, Arnold, Md.


Reviews of Man and Boy

If you plan to see the play, we suggest that you not read any of the reviews that follow until after the performance. Even the best reviews include "spoilers" and critical interpretations that deprive theater-goers of the many pleasures that only first-hand theatrical experience can provide.

If you haven't decided yet, and can resist the temptation to read even one review, by all means do so. To tempt you, here's a redacted summary of the play's setting and opening from the Back Stage review:

Premiering in 1963 and set in 1934, during the height of the Depression, the play centers on Gregor Antonescu [Frank Langella], a Romanian-born international financier who can pick up a telephone and cause world markets to rise or fall. . . . To avoid bad publicity and save [a crucial] deal, the millionaire commandeers [a] Greenwich Village apartment. . . .

This (and an obvious Bernard Madoff connection) should be all you need to know --apart from the fact that, as all the reviews suggest, the performance of Frank Langella (one of America's finest stage actors) alone makes this production worth the proverbial price of admission, although Man and Boy is surely not among Rattigan's best or most characteristic plays. Still, it's by Rattigan. Here are the reviews thus far:

* "The Art of Wreaking Havoc with Other People's Money," Ben Brantley, New York Times, October 9
* "Langella Riveting in Cheesy 'Man and Boy,'" Linda Winer, Newsday, October 9
* "Langella Shines Again on Broadway in 'Man and Boy,'" Mark Kennedy (Associated Press), San Francisco Chronicle, October 9
* "Man and Boy," David Sheward, Back Stage, October 9
* "Fraud in the Family," Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal, October 11
* "Man and Boy," David Finkle, TheaterMania, October 10
* "Man Up: Roundabout Delivers on Rattigan's Great Depression Drama," Rex Reed, New York Observer, October 12
* "Man and Boy: On With the Showy," Michael Feingold, Village Voice, October 12

Holly Hill at Chichester Festival Theatre Celebration

On September 3, "pioneering" Rattigan scholar Holly Hill ("Rattigan's Renaissance") participated in a panel discussion in England at the Chichester Festival Theatre celebration of the Rattigan centenary that appraised his "enduring achievements." The next day, she was featured in "The Rattigan Effect," a conversation with the playwright's biographer Michael Darlow. A program note [scroll down to boldface paragraphs about the "Celebration Weekend"] introduced her as follows:

In the late 1960s and 1970s, it seems that Hill, almost alone in the United States, persisted in taking Rattigan seriously. Here she gives a scholarly, critical, personal and international perspective on the work and influence of Rattigan.


Plays in Print

* The Collected Plays of Terence Rattigan: Volume One: The Early Plays, 1936-1952, Paper Tiger, 2001.

* The Collected Plays of Terence Rattigan: Volume Two: The Later Plays, 1953-1977, Paper Tiger, 2001.

* Plays - One (French Without Tears, The Winslow Boy, The Browning Version), Methuen Drama, 1982.

* Plays - Two (Deep Blue Sea, Separate Tables, In Praise of Love, Before Dawn), Methuen Drama, 1985.

* Separate Tables, Nick Hern Books, 1999.

* The Browning Version, Nick Hern Books, 2008.

* The Winslow Boy, Nick Hern Books, 2000. [Based on news accounts of actual events around 1910.]

Film Versions of Plays

* The Browning Version, 1951 (recommended), starring Michael Redgrave, directed by Anthony Asquith. Remake, 1994, starring Albert Finney.

* Separate Tables [original trailer, etc.] [much more], 1958 (recommended), starring Deborah Kerr, David Niven, Rita Hayworth, and Burt Lancaster, with Wendy Hiller; directed by Delbert Mann (b&w). TV Adaptation (VHS: 50 min.), 1983, starring Julie Christie and Alan Bates, with Claire Bloom; directed by John Schlesinger.

* The Winslow Boy, 1948 (recommended), starring Robert Donat, directed by Anthony Asquith. DVD is in a non-U.S. format (see Amazon.com page for explanation). Remake, 1999 (also excellent), starring Jeremy Northam and Rebecca Pidgeon, directed by David Mamet. [Cross-Examination Scene ("spoilers" that you might want to skip): 1948, 1999.] BBC production, 1989 (very fine), starring Gordon Jackson, Ian Richardson, and Emma Thompson, not available in DVD or VHS; see YouTube clips: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

Note: If you plan to view this film, we recommend that you do so prior to reading "Rattigan's Renaissance" (cited above), which discusses the play at some length. A brief synopsis follows to whet your appetite: Set in London around 1910, the story begins after Ronnie Winslow, a fourteen-year-old cadet at the Royal Naval College, has been expelled for allegedly stealing a five-shilling postal order. When he professes his innocence, his father believes him and, together with Ronnie's older sister, Catherine, strives to clear his son's name, whatever the cost. The third major character is Sir Robert Morton, one of England's leading barristers, whom the family seeks to engage to defend Ronnie against the full force of the British government. The rest is the stuff of high drama and romance, played out against the social and political upheavals of the era.

Television Productions

* Terence Rattigan Collection, a five-disc BBC set of nine Rattigan plays, starring some of Britain's most esteemed actors. The first American review of the collection, "A Theater Lovers Dream: Archived Performances of Nine Classic Television Productions" (September 2, 2011) is an insightful and informative Amazon.com customer appreciation by "film aficionado" K. Harris.

Films with Original Screenplays by Rattigan

* The Way to the Stars [non-U.S. format] [U.S. title: Johnny in the Clouds], 1945, starring Michael Redgrave and John Mills, directed by Anthony Asquith.

* The Yellow Rolls-Royce [more], 1964, starring Ingrid Bergman and Rex Harrison, directed by Anthony Asquith.

Select Readings

* John A. Bertolini, "Terence Rattigan (1911-1977) [first page]," British Writers: Supplement VII, ed. Jay Panini, (New York: Scribner's, 2002), 307-322.

* Theodore Dalrymple, "Reticence or Insincerity, Rattigan or Pinter," New Criterion 19:3 (November 2000), 12-20.

* Michael Darlow, Terence Rattigan: The Man and His Work [more], Quartet Books, 2000.

* Richard Foulkes, "Terence Rattigan's Variations on a Theme," Modern Drama 22 (1979), 375-82.

* Robert F. Gross, "Terence Rattigan (1911-1977)," British Playwright s 1860-1956: A Research and Production Sourcebook, eds. William Damastes and Katherine E. Kelly (Westport: Greenwood, 1996), 339-51.

* Holly Hill, "Rattigan's Renaissance," Aristos, Vol.1, No.1 (June 1982). Posted online in Aristos, February 2011. (See Note below The Winslow Boy, under Film Versions of Plays.)

* Robert Machray, "The Browning Version by Terence Rattigan" (theater review), BlogCritics.org, February 9, 2010.

* Susan Rusinko, Terence Rattigan, Twayne's English Authors Series 366 (Boston: Twayne, 1983).

* ----, "Terence Rattigan," British Dramatists Since World War II: Part 2: M-Z, Dictionary of Literary Biography, ed. Stanley Weintraub (Detroit: Thomson Gale, 1982), 420-33.

* Terry Teachout, "Terence Rattigan, Forgotten Centenarian", Wall Street Journal, April 1, 2011.

* Geoffrey Wansell, Terence Rattigan: A Biography, Fourth Estate, 1995.

* Bertram A. Young, The Rattigan Version: Sir Terence Rattigan and the Theatre of Character, Atheneum, 1988.