The Work of Terence Rattigan: Part One

The Work of Terence Rattigan: Part One

After a career in the theatre spanning five decades, Terence Rattigan is now recognised as one of the finest playwrights of the 20th century.

Having written a total of 26 scripts for the stage, this collection explores five of Rattigan’s plays with directors who have produced revivals of his work.

In the first of two films in our Terence Rattigan collection, we explore French Without Tears, The Winslow Boy and The Browning Version.

he had this huge huge success with with French without tears you know like comedy but it contains all the scenes you know give it to your man that's writing more material women this play was so successful when he was 25 that he entered into a period where he worried that he would never be taken seriously as a playwright that he would be known as this this writer of light comedy so he sets up a main character Alan who is a would-be writer who finds himself in sort of provincial France where he and some friends of his are studying to learn French in order to pass the entrance exams into the diplomatic corps and into this mix is thrown the sister of one of the boys who is devastatingly attractive and causes mayhem so much of it is about people's failure to be able to understand their own emotional lives the events of the play take place almost entirely within a hermetically sealed world so everything you need to know to do the play is in the play which is often a mark of a very good play and particularly of a very good comedy so the Winslow boy is a story about a young naval cadet and he is accused of having stolen a postal order from another boys locker and he's been expelled from school and his family furious about this they believe that he's been wronged so they get in a great barrister to come and see if he'll take up the case his main interest is actually the effects of a political act on a family and in that sense it's a domestic comedy and tragedy so Robert Morten turns up at the end in the scene and the boys story just starts falling apart all over the place and it ends with Robert Morton just denouncing him and saying I think it's about time you admit that you are a liar and forger and you're causing terrible harm to your family and the last lines of the act are him turning to his clerk and saying well have all the papers sent to me to my chambers in the morning said well surely you don't need them now and his line he ends the play with a line oh yes the boy is plainly innocent I accept the brief he's somebody who absolutely knows how to play an audience like a like a marionette I think it's truly a great play in the sense that it does fuse that the public and the political worlds in a very complex and multi-layered way and in that sense it becomes very moving it supports the idealistic notion of individual rights and the individual in the face of institutional oppression it was written it was written in 1945 just at the end of the Second World War and there were big things happening politically in England at the time what we're really seeing is the strains on a patriarchal father who sacrifices a lot with his stubborn willful nature to to win the trial the brownie version itself is an absolutely perfect play it's I think a production was fifty something minutes long there are no breaks in it it's extraordinary to direct something like that because it's it is like a piece of music or or a beautiful painting it's a perfect to play the writing version it's small and compressed and absolutely devastating I think and people suddenly realized it it's all set on the last day of a much disliked schoolteachers career at a minor public school and we're in his little apartment with his wife who hates him and he's having an affair with another teacher and there is a boy who has been effectively given a colored detention and we know that he's he's brilliant and we know that he's terrifying to the kids and the headmaster comes in and there's another master retiring and he wants to change the order of them speaking at the final assembly so that the other master is prioritized over crocker-harris it's another lack of recognition of his of him as a human being and it's well there's tiny little embarrassing humiliations that he's probably suffered many times but the last thing that happens in the play is he founds headmaster and just insists that he's going to speak last the almost kind of classical tragedy form in which he's created this intense intimate one-act play means that it almost feels like the greatest triumph you've ever heard it's it's like the weight of 30 years have been dignity rather than 30 minutes if somebody can just do a single thing and the whole audience are overcome with emotion because they can perceive everything that's underneath it but the repression or the theater or the just the nature of the characters they can't say anything explicit and so you've had this wonderful drop down to the to the really bottom of the emotional belly of the human condition and then just a little upturn which takes us forward into the rest of his life that's what Terence Rattigan is greater the thing that was so strange about the way he was dismissed is he was always dismissed as being it's all stiff upper-lip from people not expressing their emotions that's so 100% not what Terence Rattigan is about his plays are all about the reasons why people don't express their emotions and then show you what those emotions are and he does that so beautifully in all of his plays you

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