South Downs/The Browning Version
Following a sell out run at Chichester Festival Theatre in 2011, TerenceRattigan's one-act masterpiece The Browning Version and David Hare's brilliant new companion piece South Downs have now transferred to London's Harold Pinter Theatre to great critical and audience acclaim.
Anna Chancellor and Nicholas Farrell lead an excellent cast in this fine double bill. Rattigan's own Harrow School and Hare's own Lancing College provide the backdrop for two moving and resounding stories, one told through the eyes of a master, one through the eyes of a boy. Both revolve around unexpected acts of kindness which place the harsh worlds of these schools into stark contrast.
South Downs is set at Lancing College in Sussex where a pin sharp young pupil (a role reprised by young actor Alex Lawther, celebrated for this professional debut) is cut off from the rest of the school by virtue of his own intellect, background and questioning spirit. The school in response presents an unyielding and rigid outlook on life that leaves the boy isolated and confused. In an unlikely meeting with the mother of another pupil, her generosity of spirit and sound advice present the boy with a world of kindness and possibility.
Rattigan's The Browning Version presents the retiring Classics master Mr Crocker-Harris, tired, dried up and an abhorred tyrant over his pupils. Stuck in a broken marriage and facing the prospect of a retirement with no money, a simple act of generosity by one of Crocker-Harris’ pupils brings out the deep-rooted dignity and heartbreaking sadness that give this play its power.