The critically acclaimed double-bill production of David Hare’s South Downs and Terence Rattigan’s The Browning Version transfers from Chichester Festival Theatre to the Harold Pinter with a cast led by Anna Chancellor and Nicholas Farrell.
Set at Hare and Rattigan’s childhood schools – Harrow and Lancing College – the two plays examine life in boarding public schools, one through the eyes of a master the other from the point of view of a schoolboy. Both revolve around unexpected acts of kindness, which place the harsh and at times cruel worlds of these schools into stark contrast.
In South Downs a pin sharp young pupil is isolated from his fellow pupils due to his intelligence, background and questioning spirit. The school does nothing to allay his problems, their unmercifully rigid response leaving him just as alone and isolated. It’s only through a chance meeting with another pupil’s mother that he begins to find a way through his difficulties.
Rattigan’s The Browning Version on the other hand looks at boarding school life through the eyes of a retiring Classics master. Mr Crocker-Harris is tired, dried up and an abhorred tyrant of a teacher. Stuck in a stagnant marriage and facing the prospect of a retirement with little money, it’s only when a pupil shows him a simple act of generosity that his deep felt emotions surface.
Anna Chancellor, equally renowned for her performances on both stage and screen, plays the generously spirited Belinda Duffield in South Downs and the deceitful Millie Crocker-Harris in The Browning Version. Whilst Nicholas Farrell, who recently played Airey Neave in Phyllida Lloyd’s The Iron Lady, plays Reverend Eric Dewley in South Downs and Andrew Crocker-Harris in The Browning Version.