Stars: Jeremy Northam, Nigel Hawthorne, Rebecca Pidgeon
I last saw actor Jeremy Northam as an ex-con in the wacky comedy “Happy, Texas”. Here, he plays a snooty, upper-class, reserved and seemingly cold-hearted, high profile attorney with his impeccable British accent (his background is, in fact, British). I was most impressed with his performance as with Nigel Hawthorne (“The Madness of King George”) and Rebecca Pidgeon (“The Spanish Prisoner”) in this very smart David Mamet adaptation of Terrence Rattigan’s play “The Winslow Boy”.
Hawthorne, as Arthur Winslow, a bank manager, is the patriarch of a well-to-do, yet not particularly rich family faced with the scandal of having the youngest child Ronnie (14) expelled from military academy for a theft that he insists he did not commit.
Ronnie effectively convinces his family, including older sister Catherine, mother Grace and older brother Dickie of his innocence but nothing his father can do will convince the academy that they have made a mistake. Set in 1912 England, the Academy is representative of the the King’s crown – ‘which can do no wrong’ and therefore cannot be sued.
So Arthur, with the help of Catherine (Rebecca Pedgeon) and family solicitor Desmond Curry seek out the professional services of Sir Robert Morton (Northam), the most winningest of attorneys to get the House of Commons to approve a Petition of Right that would allow the case to proceed to trial. Morton takes up the clarion call that is heard throughout the story (and in the real life case) “Let Right Be Done” which is clearly debated to be a concept apart from ‘justice’
What could have stayed a quiet family matter, with Ronnie moving on to a new school, has now been rendered a public fight against the military academy, one that threatens Arthur’s health and the family’s peace, finances and community standing.
The dynanmics of this story are multiple: it’s based on a true event, its setting, daughter Catherine is an ultra-modern woman, a committed Suffragette at a time when Britain was facing great upheaval over their quest.
Lotta says: This is a very sharp production with an impeccable cast, wonderful characerizations and brilliant dialogue. It has elevated my interest in and respect for Mamet markedly.