Thursday afternoon I headed down to the Oxford Playhouse to see a double bill of one act plays directed by the legendary Peter Hall. The first, Swansong by Anton Chekov was an amusing tale of an old, drunk actor waking up in his dressing room after the theatre had been locked up and finding solace in the company of the prompter. Enjoyable and slightly melancholy, it ran for only twenty minutes and was nothing compared to the main event.
Terence Rattigan's The Browning Version, written in 1948, shows us the last day of a retiring schoolmaster as he tutors a boy for the last time and says goodbye to the other teachers. It seems like nothing much, just a glimpse into the life of a man saying farewell to what he knows, but the play manages to draw us in and explores the deep sadness that comes from feeling that your life has gone off course or has been wasted. It's a deeply moving piece of theatre and the lead, Peter Bowles (better known for playing upper class twits on British television), was admirably understated in his performance as the retiring master.
If you're in the mood for a bit of a cry, you can watch the 1951 Anthony Asquith film on Youtube. Part 1 is here and you should be able to click through to the other segments.