Review: The Winslow Boy (Stage Centre Productions)

The Winslow Boy is currently on stage at Toronto’s Fairview Library Theatre. The play was written by Terrence Rattigan and is based on real life events. It is the story of a father who risks everything to prove the innocence of his young son.

I’d never been to community theatre before, which is a shame. Stage Centre Productions is a company of volunteers. If words like “community” and “volunteers” make you imagine inferior quality, think again. The Winslow Boy is their first play of their 35th season.

Stage Centre Productions do things right, and they’ve been producing great theatre for a long time!

Don Mills and Sheppard, the location of The Fairview Library Theatre, is a different world than I am used to. Together with the excellent production I really WAS transported across the pond to pre-war London.

Looking at the playbill beforehand, I noticed a lot of characters. With the baseball playoffs about to start, I was struck with the idea of preparing a scorecard to keep track of everyone. As it turned out, this was completely unnecessary, as all actors bring their characters to life and make them memorable.

It also helped that the set was incredible. Likewise, the “sewing ladies”, who comprise the wardrobe department of Stage Centre Productions, do an amazing job. Their love of their craft adds so much to The Winslow Boy that they deserve a “shout out”.

I don’t think anyone on stage “stole” the show. However, everyone does seem to shine a little brighter when they share the stage with Ronnie Winslow (Thomas McMahon). Violet (Robin Phillips) introduces us to Ronnie when she first “welcomes” him home early. The audience has no choice but to adore them both.

I also thought Arthur Winslow (Roger Kell) was best when he was alone with Ronnie. Memories of conversations with my dad were recalled. I’m glad this scene wasn’t made overly dramatic with soft lighting and mood music.

The entire cast was brilliant as solicitor Sir Robert Morton (Will van der Zyl) interviewed The Winslow Boy centre stage. This had everyone was on the edge of their seats.

I wasn’t crazy about the length of the play, but then again, I was born after we landed a man on the moon. I thought the conversations took too long, and there were too many subplots and technical legal issues hinted at. On the other hand, I suppose this is to be commended. It really brought the audience back in time, before texting, even before (are you sitting?) television.

The young Ronnie Winslow falls asleep while his father reads a newspaper account of the case aloud. This is an image that will be with me for a long time. It is a great metaphor for our different times in general and the play’s plot in particular.

Speaking of a “man” on the moon and subplots, I thought it was great that Ronnie’s older sister, Catherine (Irit Shomrony) was a strong woman, a rebel and a suffragette. It is easy to forget that there was a time when women had to fight for equal rights or even the right to vote.

Reminders like this – of what is truly important – are just what the Doctor ordered.

This play debuted nearly 70 years ago. Dress and language has certainly changed. What hasn’t changed, and is needed now, more than ever, is the need for strong, focused and dedicated men and women to fight for what is good and right. The Winslow Boy and The Fairview Library Theatre are examples of why communities, volunteers and libraries are essential.

Vote the good vote by going to see The Winslow Boy at The Fairview Library Theatre! Your community deserves you.

Details:

DATES: September 29 and 30, October 1 and 2 (Thursday to Sunday), and October 5, 6, 7 and 8 (Wednesday to Saturday)

TIMES: Performances begin at 8:00 p.m., excepting October 2 at 2pm and an additional 2pm show on October 8

TICKETS: Adults $27.50, Seniors/Students $22

To order tickets call 416.299.5557 or click http://www.stagecentreproductions.com/SCP_SingleTickets.htm

Subscription packages are available from $54. You save up to 25%.

LOCATION: Fairview Public Library Theatre, 35 Fairview Mall Drive, North York, steps away from the Don Mills Subway Station on the Sheppard Line. Lots of free parking. Wheelchair access and hearing devices available.

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