Johnny Duncan,
Mr. Metro

Johnny Duncan, known in the Vancouver theatre world as Mr. Metro, has always wanted to direct Sir Terence Rattigan’s wonderful classic drama, The Winslow Boy.  Having waited for years for the opportunity, it has now come twice in a row.  Last year, Vagabond Players in New Westminster, produced the play at the end of their season.  Now Metro Theatre is remounting the production for its own patrons.  What a bonanza for Vancouver audiences, as well as for Johnny!

Adrian and Michael Jones as Arthur and Ronnie Winslow.

Considered the greatest of Terence Rattigan’s plays, The Winslow Boy is set in the years leading up to World War I.  Inspired by a precedent-setting historical event, the play depicts a riveting battle against the establishment.  When Ronnie Winslow is accused of stealing a postal order and expelled from the Royal Naval Academy, every member of his family is affected by the struggle to clear his name.  His father, Arthur, is determined to vindicate his son at any cost, but the cost is high.  His own health deteriorates, financial hardship eliminates his older son’s prospects for higher education, and the ensuing scandal jeopardizes his daughter’s engagement.

Kris Michaleski and Adrian Jones as Dickie and Ronnie Winslow.

In spite of overwhelming odds, Arthur pursues justice, first through the Military Court of Appeals, and later, through a daring challenge to Parliament.  Handling the case is Sir Robert Morton, a brilliant barrister who believes as firmly as Catherine and her father that ‘Right’ must be done.  Recent revivals of Terence Rattigan’s work are starting to appear in film remakes, such as The Deep Blue Sea, and on many prestigious stages around the world.  The current Old Vic production of The Winslow Boy has opened to a rave review, and the value of this playwright’s exceptional work is being realized again for the excellent theatre it is:

Alison Main-Tourneur as the lovable maid, Violet, with Michael Jones as Arthur Winslow.
Kris Michaleski and Gina Raye-Young as Dickie and Catherine Winslow.

I was privileged to be the set designer for the Vagabond Players production, and it was lovely to see my design come to life again when I attended the gala opening at Metro Theatre.  As before, the show is visually attractive and utterly engaging.  Real-life father and son, Mike and Adrian Jones play Arthur and Ronnie Winslow, and Isabel Mendenhall delivers a charming performance as the beleaguered mother who questions whether the sacrifices made in pursuit of justice are truly worthwhile.  Gina Raye Young is outstanding as Catherine Winslow, the daughter whose engagement is threatened by the publicity that surrounds the trial, and her interaction with Gavin LeClaire as the lawyer who handles the case provide some of the most enthralling moments in the show.   Kris Michaleski makes a likeable Dicky, the brother whose future is affected by the family’s financial struggles, and Alison Main-Tourneur is delightful as Violet, the loveable parlourmaid who has been with the family for many years.  New to this cast is Roger Kettyls, who delivers a superb performance as the family friend who has long been in love with Catherine.  Also stepping in valiantly for the Metro production are Chris O’Connor as Catherine’s fiance and Iris Gittens as the reporter sent to cover the case.  Rob Stover, the fine performer who played Desmond, in the Vagabond production, will be playing Sir Robert Morton during the second half of the run, and I look forward to seeing him in his new role.

Gavin LeClaire as Sir Robert Morton and Gina Raye Young as Catherine Winslow.

Many times filmed for BBC television and twice made into a movie, The Winslow Boy has attracted such illustrious performers as Nigel Hawthorne, Emma Thompson, Gordon Jackson, Jeremy Northam, Ian Richardson, Margaret Leighton and Sir Cedric Hardwicke.  The gripping story, set in the visually glorious Downton Abbey period, will have you cheering for the Winslow family right to the final curtain.  Vancouver theatre-lovers should welcome the opportunity to see this great play.  Directed by Johnny Duncan, and with the beautiful original costumes of Cynthia Chow augmented with additional period pieces by Metro’s Sean Ullman, The Winslow Boy promises to be a highlight of Metro’s season.  A thrilling classic not to be missed!  The Winslow Boy runs March 23 – April 20, 2013, Thursday to Saturday – 8:00 pm, Sunday matinees, April 7th and April 14th  – 2:00 pm, at the Metro Theatre Centre, 1370 SW Marine Drive, Vancouver, B.C.  Box Office: 604-266-7191

Next, on April 10th:  St. Luke’s Players’ first-class production of Casting for Murder brings back memories of how the Beary mystery series began.

The Winslow Boy – Terence Rattigan’s greatest play on stage in Vancouver