The Browning Version (play)
|The Browning Version|
|Written by||Terence Rattigan|
|Characters||Taplow, Andrew Crocker-Harris, Frank, Mrs Crocker- Harris|
|Date premiered||8 September 1948|
|Place premiered||Phoenix Theatre, London|
|Setting||A British public school|
The Browning Version is a play by Terence Rattigan, seen by many as his best work, and first performed on 8 September 1948 at the Phoenix Theatre, London. It was originally one of two short plays, jointly titled "Playbill"; the companion piece being Harlequinade, which forms the second half of the evening. The Browning Version is set in a boys public school and the Classics teacher in the play, Crocker-Harris, is believed to have been based on Rattigan's Classics tutor at Harrow School, J.W. Coke Norris (1874-1961).
Andrew Crocker-Harris is a classics teacher at an English boys' school. After eighteen years of teaching there, today is his last day before moving on to a position at another school. The students speculate on why he is leaving, but do not much care since despite being academically brilliant, he is generally despised as being strict, stern and humourless. They have nicknamed him "The Crock". Even the school administrators treat him poorly regardless of his long tenure. Millie Crocker-Harris, his wife, is younger and vivacious and quite different from her husband. She no longer loves him but rather loves Frank Hunter, another teacher, yet despite having an affair with him she knows he is not in love with her. On this last day, one student named Taplow, who does not hate Crocker-Harris but feels sorry for him, gives him a small going-away gift - a copy of the translation by Robert Browning of Aeschylus’ ancient play Agamemnon. The gift brings about a series of actions which make Crocker-Harris reflect on his past, contemplate his future, and evaluate how he is going to finish his tenure at the school.
In the original production, Crocker-Harris was played by Eric Portman, and his wife by Mary Ellis. Barry Jones took over the role of Crocker-Harris, with the run ending on 9 April 1949. Reviews were enthusiastic, with the play being hailed as "a 70 minute masterpiece."
- John Taplow - Peter Scott
- Frank Hunter - Hector Ross
- Millie Crocker-Harris - Mary Ellis
- Andrew Crocker-Harris - Eric Portman
- Dr. Frobisher - Campbell Cotts
- Peter Gilbert - Anthony Oliver
- Mrs. Gilbert - Henryetta Edwards
Decor by Paul Sheriff.
Original Broadway production
In 1949 the play was performed on Broadway, opening on 12 October at the Coronet Theater on 49th street with Maurice Evans and Edna Best. The play and its companion-piece Harlequinade failed to find favour with New York critics (with Time Magazine calling it "bilge"), and it closed after 62 performances. Peter Scott-Smith as John Taplow was the sole member of the West End cast to reprise his role on Broadway.
- Millie Crocker-Harris - Edna Best
- Andrew Crocker-Harris - Maurice Evans
- Peter Gilbert - Frederick Bradlee
- Dr. Frobisher - Louis Hector
- Frank Hunter - Ron Randell
- John Taplow - Peter Scott-Smith
- Mrs. Gilbert - Patricia Wheel
Scenic design by Frederick Stover.
The Theatre Royal Bath put the play on in 2009 in a double bill with Chekhov's one-act play Swansong, both starring Peter Bowles. A production at the Chichester Festival Theatre (alongside South Downs, a new play written in response to it by David Hare) marked Rattigan's centenary in 2011.
The play was subsequently made into two film versions, and at least four television adaptations. The 1951 film version, starring Michael Redgrave as Crocker-Harris, won two awards at the Cannes Film Festival, one for Rattigan's screenplay, the other for Redgrave's performance. It was remade in 1994, starring Albert Finney, Michael Gambon, Greta Scacchi, Matthew Modine, Julian Sands and young Ben Silverstone. A British television version was made in 1955, starring Peter Cushing as Crocker-Harris. John Frankenheimer directed John Gielgud in a 1959 television version for CBS. In 1960, Maurice Evans repeated his Broadway role for CBC television under the sponsorship of Ford of Canada in their Startime series. Another made-for-TV version in 1985 starred Ian Holm as the main character for the BBC.
A radio version was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in June 2011. It was directed by Martin Jarvis, and featured Michael York, Joanne Whalley, Ioan Gruffudd and Ian Ogilvy. An earlier version was broadcast on the BBC Home Service in September 1957. It was directed by Norman Wright and adapted by Cynthia Pughe with John Gielgud, Angela Baddeley, Brewster Mason and Anthony Adams.
A staged reading was performed on 3 April 2012 at The Players Club in New York City, presented by TAPT (The Artists' Playground Theater), directed by Alex Kelly and starring Matthew Dure', Robert Lyons, Nichole Donje' Jeffrey Hardy, Steven Hauck, Max Rhyser, Jessica Beaudry and Kate Downey.
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