Terence Rattigan’s classic family drama, The Winslow Boy will take to the stage at the Everyman Theatre from Monday 16 to Saturday 21 April 2018, encompassing themes of political hypocrisies that remain prevalent in today’s society.
What’s more, local audiences are sure to appreciate the story’s county connections; Rattigan’s work is based on a real-life event involving a Gloucestershire boy, George Archer Shee, whose name is commemorated on the Woodchester Wayside Cross war memorial.
Described by The Guardian as putting ‘press and politicians in the dock’, lead actor Aden Gillett reveals just what to expect from the critically-acclaimed play.
How’s the tour going so far?
It’s going very well! It will be nice to get to Cheltenham, and I think the show will fit very well in the theatre.
You’ve visited the Woodchester Wayside Cross where George Archer Shee has his name engraved?
Yes, it’s the first public cross to WWI and it went up in 1916. It was originally a private cross but was then made public with around 50 other names added. It was the first one in England.
What first drew you to the role?
I know the story as I was in the film; David Mamet made a film about 20 years ago. It’s strange because David’s plays are very different from Terence Rattigan although he’s a big Rattigan fan.
I was offered a different part to the one that I played in the film, and I thought it was very unlike me. Everyone seemed to think I could do it, while I thought ‘I’m not sure I can!’ Strangely, me being perverse, that challenge drew me to the role.
How have audiences reacted so far?
One thing we didn’t really anticipate, the director included, is that they find the first part funny! They laugh a lot and that was not clear to us when we were rehearsing, at all. It’s not apparent on the page and so when things turn grim, which they do very suddenly at about the half hour mark, it’s very strange.
We go from a comedy into quite strong tragedy. It makes the evening quite a rich one; a lot of laughter, then a lot of tears…. It’s a very rich and theatrical experience.
Have the audiences expected an element of comedy?
No, I don’t think they do. It’s somehow the interaction between this group of actors that makes the beginning very light and funny. And laughter, not just smiles.
It’s really good because it makes it so much more powerful when things get grim…
What do you like about Rachel Kavanaugh’s adaptation?
You can never fully understand what a director has brought to the show as an actor, because you’re not watching it, you’re in it. But to work with her, she’s got a tremendous intelligence and lightness of touch. That’s quite rare for a director.
Had you had experience working with Terence Rattigan’s work on the stage before?
I haven’t been in anything else he’s done, although I have seen The Deep Blue Sea and Flare Path. What I like about him is that his work is very emotionally rich – a real splurge of emotion. It’s real emotional stuff with people pouring their hearts out, people under real stress who are in love with the wrong person, fighting a lost cause, putting all of their emotions into a very difficult area.
It’s quite rich for the audience but for some reason, right now in history, it feels very timely. It feels like we’re all fighting slightly lost causes at the moment…
In this play, where someone takes on a whole country, a government… it gives you hope.
So you agree that the issues in the play still resonate in current society?
I do. I think that a lot of us feel a bit downtrodden, going ‘what on earth has happened, what went wrong’. In this play, the man I’m playing is trying to take on the world, fight against these giants, these slightly emotionally dead things that have happened to the world.
And that’s a hell of a task! But unless humans do that, we’re all stuffed. You think ‘what can I do’ and ‘I’m only me’. In this play, where someone takes on a whole country, a government… it gives you hope.
Maybe the audience can take something from that?
I hope so! We are going to have to join together and fight, rather than be little individuals questioning ‘what do we do’.
And finally, what can audiences expect from The Winslow Boy?
I think they’re in for a really rich theatrical experience; that’s what I hope they get, and what I think they’re going to get!