Strangely uplifting for a story about life?s disappointments, The Browning Version by Terence Rattigan gives a glimpse into public school life through the eyes of Mr Crocker-Harris, ?The Crock? (Chris Wang) on the eve of his last day teaching at the school. The Crock is the stereotype of everybody?s worst teacher. He is a tyrant and a bully in the classroom who receives little respect from fellow teachers and was never promoted to the position that he perhaps deserves. As many of the characters, most notably Mrs Crocker-Harris (Veronica Humphris) and Taplow (a pupil) (Fred Clough) are threatened with disappointments, personal integrity and dignity are both called into question and the resulting decisions shape the play?s narrative.
All the cast of University of London Drama Society?s production gave impressively credible performances of characters that are enormously difficult not to overact given their distinct class and period. I thoroughly enjoyed this play, largely because I was able to buy into the characters but also because the plot kept surprising me and making me laugh (in a good way!).
Status interactions between characters form the backbone to much of the action of this play. Generally the status of any given character was played very well in terms of line delivery, body language and interaction with the other characters. Sadly however, the status of any individual character rarely changed throughout the play neither in response to the entry/exit of other characters or the plot developments. A variety of emotions were displayed by each character but without the necessary changes in status to accompany them, these were a little hollow. The courage to play a typically high status character with a low status for some situations (or vice versa) would have turned a very good play into an excellent one.
The second play this academic year to be staged in Elec Eng 509, despite being in a traditional proscenium type arrangement, it still retained much of the intimacy gained from being in such a small venue. I suspect this benefit might lose out to restricted view, for seats nearer the back of the room however. The set and lights were simple and minimal but more than adequate.
Overall this was a very good production and a pleasant evening?s entertainment. Finally, I shall explain why I found this play uplifting; despite the many disappointments he faced in terms of professional, personal and financial lives, Mr Crocker-Harris showed a remarkable lack of bitterness and seemed almost content to accept the injustices that he faced.