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The Browning Version

The Browning Version

Terence Rattigan

1 - 8 December 2012

Cathryn Parker

Ο ρύθμισης ροδίσματος εκδοχή

A painfully accurate portrayal of thwarted hope and ambition.

Double-bill with Animal Farm


Performances

Sat 7:45pm, Mon 7:45pm, Tue 7:45pm, Wed 7:45pm, Thu 7:45pm, Fri 7:45pm, Sat 2:45pm, Sat 7:45pm

Synopsis

Andrew Crocker-Harris was a brilliant prize-winning Classics scholar at Oxford in the 1920s and believed he had a glittering career in education ahead when he entered the hallowed portals of the minor public school that he is just about to leave due to ill health after nearly 20 years. Married to the unsuitable, haughty, bitter and unfaithful Millie, they can barely disguise the contempt and disgust that now characterises their failed relationship. In the last 24 hours before he leaves the school to which he has given his life and his health, Crocker-Harris is forced to come to terms with how his ideals have turned to ashes in the face of a series of disappointments which border on the tragic. In a painfully accurate portrayal of thwarted hope and ambition, Rattigan both robs his protagonist of all apparent “comforting illusions” before giving him one last opportunity to emerge from the ruins of his career and marriage with his humanity intact. But will he grasp it?

Review

Terence Rattigan’s acclaimed one act play was first performed in 1948 very successfully in London, the 1951 film version starred Michael Redgrave giving, what many hailed, the performance of his life. Born in 1911 Rattigan had a privileged background and was educated at Harrow and then Oxford. The Browning Version is set in a boy’s public school in 1948 and centres on the end of the career of an unpopular and outwardly emotionally cold master, Crocker-Harris, who is forced to take early retirement due to ill health. It is a raw and poignant story of the pain of failed ambition and dreams against a backdrop of English reserve, class and tradition – themes Rattigan dealt with in much of his work.

Director Cathryn Parker, whose production of Flarepath I saw, clearly has a strong understanding of and passion for Rattigan’s work and she cast this production well. Talented young newcomer to LLT Jake Kroeger as Taplow captured the feel of the period with the right mix of the poise of privilege and boyish guile needed to attempt to get pass marks out of the Master dubbed ‘the Himmler of the lower fifth’. Peter Wellby as the Master Crocker-Harris was pent up, dessicated and at times appropriately painful to watch as a casual act of kindness by his pupil Taplow leads to the opening of the emotional dam.
Chris Parke as Frank Hunter, the Master who is rather reluctantly having an affair with Crocker Harris’ wife, was truthful and convincing trying to follow decorum while dealing with his needy lover without cruelty. Jennifer Henley, as Millie Crocker-Harris, the bitter wife of what she perceives to be her failure of a husband, had the right measure of the brittleness and vulnerability of this unfulfilled woman. Douglas Wragg as the Headmaster of the school delivering devastating news to Crocker-Harris regarding his future was rightly bluff, no nonsense and professional in his concern. James Collins as the new Master taking Crocker-Harris’ place has a warmth and sensitivity on stage which lent itself well to the interaction between him and his predecessor. Emma Ladd was sparky and brash as Mrs Gilbert with a distinct whiff of the social climber over-excited by the prospect of her status as public school Master’s wife. David Hare was recently asked to write a new play - South Downs - to double bill with a new production of The Browning Version. That acclaimed production had critics, once again, calling The Browning Version ‘indisputably great’. It is indeed a gem and this production did it justice. In an economically cruel world of cuts, recession and redundancies Crocker-Harris’ predicament felt all too relevant.

Lucy fitchett