Last week, SPH (Baldwin’s Bec) presented ‘The Browning Version’ in the Farrer Theatre. Directed by CER, Terence Rattigan’s play beautifully captures the difference between how you perceive yourself and how others see you. Press Officer Charlie L, who was on duty as a key member of the Farrer’s Sound and Lighting crew, reported for us.
The play is set in a public school (likely Harrow) in the 1940s, and the show was staged in a living room packed with cloth-bound books and papers. The play takes place in one continuous scene, as we watch a retiring schoolteacher, Mr. Crocker-Harris, confront the consequences of his teaching style.
The first scene’s dialogue between schoolboy John Taplow, and Frank Hunter, a science teacher, reveals how people see Mr. Crocker-Harris. He is perceived as a fearsome teacher devoid of empathy, who shrivels up even more once anyone shows affection for him.
Yet we not only see that this is merely a façade, but sympathise with him deeply as the play unfolds. By the end, when his cold wife, Millie (played with an intense sharpness by Thomas E) shatters the one glimmer of hope that he has, we are heartbroken for him. Rattigan is notoriously good at stripping human nature down to its ugly bare-bones, and SPH certainly managed to capture this in their production.
Tom B, who played Mr. Crocker-Harris, gave a stunning performance. He captured the vulnerability and sternness of the teacher and his breakdown was highly moving. Yet it would be wrong to suggest that the show was a one-man effort. Each actor in the cast of seven gave very strong performances, sending the audience hurtling along a rollercoaster of emotions from benevolence to betrayal. In the end, the play’s quiet optimism shines through, and we realise that all is not lost for our characters.
It was overall a wonderful production. Bravo to everyone involved!