Plays, Volume 1

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Eyre Methuen, Jan 1, 1981 - Adultery - 271 pages
"Few dramatists of this century have written with more understanding of the human heart than Terence Rattigan" (Guardian)



Constantly revived on stage, radio and television, Rattigan's plays demonstrate their continuing power to hold and move audiences. This volume contains his best work from the thirties and forties, including his first play French Without Tears, about a group of "bright young things" attempting to learn French on the Riviera amid numerous distractions. The second play The Winslow Boy, based on an actual case, is the powerful, deliberately well-made drama of a father's attempts to clear his cadet son's name against the assembled might of Britain's naval establishment - the Admiralty. Completing the volume are two one-act plays Harlequinade, a sustained joke against some well-worn theatrical conventions and The Browning Version which portrays a disliked classics master, Crocker-Harris on the point of retiring after eighteen years of unsuccessful teaching "well up there among the dozen greatest plays written in this country this century." (The Spectator)

"Terence Rattigan is the English Tennessee Williams. He maps out the same fatal divorce between the spiritual and the physical, the same drama of lost souls and misdirected lusts, of people stranded with their frustrations, blasted by guilt and reaching out for rescue that they know full well will fail" (Sunday Times)

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About the author (1981)

Rattigan, who had been a playwright since leaving Oxford University at the age of 22, boasted of his workmanship---"I believe sloppy construction, untidy technique, and lack of craftsmanship to be great faults"---and of his ability to please the British playgoer, the archetypical "Aunt Edna," a "middle-class, middle-aged maiden lady with time on her hands." Not surprisingly, he fell out of favor in the Britain of the 1960s. (He had never been particularly popular in the United States, which looked on his work as inspirationally lacking.) At the time of his death, criticism, still taking him at his word, faintly praised Rattigan's expositions, his management of interleaving characters (as in Separate Tables, 1954), and his artful episodic development in Ross (1960). But Darlow and Hodson's revelations of Rattigan's tormented personal life have helped readers acknowledge that, despite imposed or sentimental endings, his plays are often full of genuine anguish---in the relations of parents and children (Man and Boy, 1963) and obsessed lovers (The Deep Blue Sea, 1952), and in recognition of weakness that vitiates heroism (Ross, 1960, which is based on the life of T. E. Lawrence. And revivals of the 1948 play The Browning Version (at the National Theatre) and of The Winslow Boy (1946) moved the critic Harold Hobson to concede that "there are many things in Rattigan that have not yet been properly perceived.

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