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April 20, 2022


#Play The Browning Version

by NancyElin

Candida Gubbins and Peter Bowles in The Browning Version, at Theatre Royal Bath in 2009.


22. The Browning Version by Terence Rattigan by Terence Rattigan Terence Rattigan

Finish date: 18 April 2022
Genre: Play
Rating: A++++

Bad news: At the time of his death in 1977, Terence Rattigan was barely remembered by the theater-going public, yet 30 years earlier he was considered one of Britain’s most important playwrights. Unfortunately his plays have been swept aside.

Good news: Rattigan creates an unforgettable character Mr. Andrew Crocker-Harris, master at a boys boarding school. Ill health is forcing Andrew to retire from teaching.
He shows a measure of resilience and takes life’s disappointments in his stride with good grace and an unassuming humility.

Good news: Again the title of a play or book must be the center of the story. The very moving scene between the student Taplow and Mr. Crocker is unforgettable.
The “Browning version” is the translation made by Robert Browning of the Agamemnon of Aeschylus, which the teacher Mr. Crocker-Harris is having his students read in the original Greek. One of the students gives a copy of Browning’s version to Mr. Crocker-Harris as a gift upon the latter’s leaving the school.


John Tallow (16 yr ) student at boarding school
Frank Hunter (40s yr ) master
Millie Crocker-Harris (50s yr ) wife; cold indifference to the feelings of others
Andrew Crocker-Harris (50s yr ) – feels himself a failure, but will not beg school for pension…
Dr. Frobisher (60s) Headmaster
Peter Gilbert (30s yr) master replacing Mr. Crocker
Mrs. Gilbert (30syr ) wife

Good news: Tone in the play is brutally honest. I winced at times how cruel a wife (Mrs. Crocker) could be. But Andrew is triumph. He is unwilling to delegate blame or to engage in self pity when things go awry, and they do go awry! Very impressed by his ability to dramatize the world of hurt that human beings can manage to live with.

Personal: I didn’t expect very much from this play. It was reserved in manner and strict decorum. Who says the British “stiff-upper lip” is boring? This play packed a VERY subtle punch to the gut!  Rattigan has a profound understanding of the human heart.

If you can find a revival of one of his plays I would urge you to see it. Rattigan is a master of understatement. You can always find TR’s plays on Amazon… or even in the library. The Deep Blue Sea , Separate Tables and The Winslow Boy – are now established classics.

Read more from Mount TBR 2022, plays
3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Apr 20 2022

    I love this play and there are two great film versions with superb acting in both- Albert Finney and Michael Redgrave – without looking it up! I think Rattigan is now back and his greatness recognised. Absurd drama and kitchen sink plays dominated and curtailed Rattigan’s recognition.
    In the recent Operation Mincemeat I think you might argue there is a sort of Rattigan-like subtext.
    Many thanks for this!

  2. Apr 20 2022

    Reblogged this on penwithlit.

    • Apr 20 2022

      Many thanks for RT…so glad you enjoyed my review!


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