Critical Context

(Comprehensive Guide to Drama)

Under the title of Playbill, The Browning Version was produced in 1948 in tandem with Harlequinade, a farce about a provincial touring group of actors. The play earned for Rattigan his second Ellen Terry Award (1948), the first having been bestowed on The Winslow Boy (pr., pb. 1946). During the turbulent middle years of the twentieth century, Rattigan continued to write plays about lonely individuals who are in conflict with themselves, their families, or societal attitudes.

The Browning Version has continued to interest new generations of producers, directors, and actors. In 1975, Anthony Curtis reviewed a production of The Browning Version at the King’s Head, describing the “rapt attention given the play by the mass of blue denim that had packed into the pub to see it and the ovation given at the end to Nigel Stock and Barbara Jefford who played the Crock and Millie.” The young members of the audience were not aware “that the elderly gentleman in the immaculate dark blue suit at one of the centre tables . . . was the author.”

In the 1980’s, The Browning Version and Harlequinade were staged at the National Theatre, an honor earlier denied Rattigan. The critically acclaimed production featured Geraldine McEwan and Alec McCowen. In that same decade, a masterful television film of the play, with Judi Dench and Ian Holm, was seen on American television.


(The entire section is 483 words.)