2012 Events


Society gathers at High Wycombe to honour wartime playwright Air Gunner.

Some 50 members of the Terence Rattigan Society gathered at RAF High Wycombe Officers’ Mess on Saturday 29 September 2012 to celebrate the late playwright’s wartime RAF service and watch one of the films he scripted for the RAF Film Production Unit.

Terence Rattigan, whose famous plays include ‘French Without Tears’, ‘The Browning Version’ and ‘Separate Tables’ served in the RAF as a Coastal Command Air Gunnery Leader during WW2.  He drew on his experiences to write his seminal wartime play about Bomber Command, ‘Flarepath’, recently revived to great acclaim in the West End.  Whilst still in uniform, he also penned the film adaptation, ‘The Way to the Stars’, filmed at RAF Catterick.  Subsequently, he was co-opted onto the RAF Film production Unit where he wrote the screenplay of ‘Journey Together’, a recruiting vehicle for multi-engine crews and featuring a host of British actors then serving in the RAF.

This rarely-seen film was introduced at the special screening by one of Rattigan’s biographers and Society Vice-President, Michael Darlow, himself a former RAF National Serviceman.  Michael Darlow was also the director of the acclaimed 1989 BBC drama ‘Bomber Harris’, starring John Thaw in the title role.  The occasion was an opportunity to reunite Michael with actor, historian and former RAF pilot Robert Hardy, who starred in the drama in one of his many performances as wartime Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, and who took time out of a busy schedule to join the Society event.  Together with members of the Society committee, Robert and Michael visited Air Chief Marshal Harris’ former office, now restored to its wartime configuration by a team from RAF High Wycombe and containing a number of original items of furniture and fittings.

In his introduction to the film, Michael Darlow poignantly commented, ‘It’s a sobering thought that, had Rattigan been posted to Bomber, rather than Coastal, Command, he might have been one of the 56,000 lost aircrew commemorated on the memorial unveiled this year, depriving us of some of the finest works in Twentieth Century English theatre.  We are fortunate that he was able to use his experiences to bring the world of wartime flying to life for the British public’.

Said Group Captain Clive Montellier, Secretary to the Society, who organised the day, ‘It was a great privilege to be able to bring together such key figures from the world of film and drama to assist the Society in celebrating a great English playwright who, like millions of others, donned uniform to serve his country in wartime.  To be able to do so in the surroundings of the former Bomber Command HQ mess added a resonance to the occasion that our members felt genuinely moving’.


FRIDAY 15th JUNE, 2012 – ANNUAL BIRTHDAY DINNER at The Garrick Club

The Society plans to celebrate Sir Terence’s birthday every year with a lunch or dinner on a date close to the anniversary (10th June) at a place well known to him.

Our first such event in June 2012 was hugely enjoyable and hosted with great style and warmth by our Vice President and the Garrick Club’s official historian – Geoffrey Wansell.  Sir Terence joined the Garrick Club in 1944, resigned in 1958, re-joined in 1968 and remained a member until his death.

As befits such exquisite surroundings and to pay tribute to Sir Terence’s elegance, this was a black tie event and we were seated at round tables,  each named after one of the plays, in the Milne Room.  Members were curious to know if they had been seated on, for example ‘French Without Tears’ for any particular reason.

After the meal, Geoffrey introduced our Guest of Honour and speaker, the Academy award-winning playwright, screenwriter and novelist, Sir Ronald Harwood, CBE, who delivered what many of us consider to be one of the finest after-dinner speeches about a playwright ever made.  The Society is deeply grateful to Sir Ronald for giving such an unforgettable inaugural speech.  Sir Ronald allowed us to print his entire speech in the July/August 2012 edition of ‘The Rattigan Version’.  PLEASE BECOME A MEMBER OF THE SOCIETY, if you would like to read it.


FRIDAY 1st JUNE, 2012 –  The Terence Rattigan Society in association withThe Central School of Speech and Drama present

‘RATTIGAN IN PERFORMANCE’  A masterclass with Thea Sharrock

The following details appeared in the Society’s newsletter ‘The Rattigan Version’

The Olivier Award winning director Thea Sharrock, After the Dance (National Theatre) and Cause Celebre (The Old Vic) will direct Central School Alumni, Matthew Bloxham, Elizabeth Donnelly and Jonathan Rigby in extracts from Rattigan’s major plays.

Under our Constitution, one of the Society’s main aims is “to provide an educational initiative, working with drama schools and other schools and colleges, to increase awareness amongst young people;  using master classes and lectures”.  We are therefore delighted that Thea Sharrock has agreed to help us achieve this aim and that the Central School of Speech and Drama is participating and letting us use their New Studio for the event.

The following article, written by Stephen Bradley, the Webmaster of the Society and also a professional actor, appeared in a subsequent edition of the Society’s magazine.

“On Friday 1st June, I had the pleasure of attending the first of what the Society hopes will be a series of masterclasses at various drama schools around the country.

The MasterClass included none other than Thea Sharrock, an incredibly talented & successful director (Credits include Equus, Private Lives, The Deep Blue Sea, After the Dance & more recently “The Sunshine Boys”). The wonderful invitation I received explained that it would be MasterClass led by Thea herself, directing 3 Actor’s through 3 separate scenes from Rattigan plays.As I am a young actor on the Society’s Committee, I was asked to write this article.

The 2 plays to be covered were: The Deep Blue Sea and The Browning Version. The class started with a brief synopsis led by Thea of each scene before getting down to watching the compelling performances.

The first scene being performed was from The Deep Blue Sea. It included Elizabeth Donnelly playing the character of Hester and Matthew Bloxham playing Freddie Page. As the performance took place Thea stepped in to give notes involving the audience as she went. By doing this Thea was really able to bring more depth and meaning to the dialogue and stage directions. She explained about the “pace” of the scene and how important it was that the dialogue was performed maintaining the originally intended rhythm and pace. Thea also emphasised the huge importance of Stage Directions and how each one plays its part in bringing the overall scene to life, and how altering or taking these directions out will result in the piece not working and the pace being affected.

Thea encouraged interaction with audience and the actors and everyone was able to ask questions and contribute their opinions, before the scene was performed again. This time with the addition of Thea pausing to add notes and directions as the scene was played out. Thea talked passionately about alternative characters outside of the play and described them as being “in their own world”, she explored the depth of relationships that were portrayed as the scene developed. Thea was able to give some much justification to what she was saying and clearly knew these characters so well. For myself as an Actor I found the experience awe-inspiring, the methods Thea used to break the scene down and allowing audience participation throughout resulted in an inspiring environment that was really creative and encouraged interaction.

The next piece to be performed was a scene from “The Browning Version” with Jonathan Rigby as Crocker-Harris and Matthew Bloxham as Frank Hunter. As before, the scene was played out followed by a discussion. Thea explained at this point that Rattigan style provides a lot of “clues” in the script and that if those “clues” are followed and an  actor doesn’t add anything extra, the scenes will be brilliant. I found this interesting and it is my view that it reinforces the theory of how important it is for actors to deeply study the piece they are working on and how preparation is such a key to success.

As the piece was performed again, Thea was able to bring a lot more depth to the characters. I feel I could see a noticeable difference in the actors as she directed them with more emphasis on stage direction, bringing out the sub text and really focusing on “pauses” and “punctuation”. Even though time was running out and a shorter time was spent on this scene, the difference was plain to see.

I learnt so much, evidenced by the 7 pages of notes I took!  It was a fantastic class and I felt a sense of disappointment it had come to an end, finding myself wanting more.

Thea’s interactive style with the audience was most effective and the way she engaged both the actors performing and the audience resulted in a fantastic learning experience for all who attended. Thea’s engagement with the audience meant that they were able to physically see the results of her incredible tips and talent and I know myself and many other members of the audience would have felt a huge amount of satisfaction to be part of something so interactive and educational.”

Before the event, Professor Gavin Henderson, the Principal of the Central School, gave a speech of welcome to the Society members and to Thea Sharrock.  Professor Henderson is a member of the Society.  Afterwards, members and students attended  a drinks party at the School.  Princess George Galitzine, Geoffrey Wansell and Adrian Brown attended.



Trustees of the The Sir Terence Rattigan Charitable Trust had invited the Society to arrange a tree-planting to take place in the garden of the Actors’ Church before the centenary year had ended on June 10th, 2012.

The following details appeared in the Society’s newsletter ‘The Rattigan Version’

Members are invited to attend a service at The Actors’ Church, St. Paul’s Covent Garden, in memory of Sir Terence.  The service, which will include readings by distinguished actors and others who have been closely associated with Sir Terence and his work, will be followed by a Tree Planting ceremony.  At 12 noon, our Vice President Mr David Suchet, CBE will plant a Sorbus tree in the North side of the church garden.

There is no charge to attend the service and the tree planting, but it would be most helpful if you would register your wish to attend.  The service and tree planting is taking place with financial assistance from The Sir Terence Rattigan Trust, who asked the Society to make the arrangements before the end of the birthday year, on June 10th.

After the tree planting ceremony, there will be a reception, with sparkling wine and canapés in The Irving Room at The Garrick Club, 15 Garrick Street, London WC2E 9AY,  which is within easy walking distance of the church.  During the reception, we hope to make a formal presentation to David Suchet, marking his Vice Presidency of The Terence Rattigan Society.

The Order of Service can be found below:

TR Order of Service (click me)

After the Service, David Suchet, the Society’s Vice President, planted the sorbus tree in honour of Sir Terence and members and special guests repaired to the Garrick Club for a drinks reception.

The Chairman, Barbara Longford,  gave the following speech of welcome.

“On behalf of us all,  I would like to thank the distinguished writers and performers who took part in this morning’s service.  They paid a moving tribute to the memory of Sir Terence and his work which none of us will forget.  David (Suchet), Charlotte  (Page), Geoffrey (Wansell), Nicholas (Farrell), Greta (Scacchi), Simon (Green), Michael (Darlow) and Adrian (Brown)– THANK YOU.

Since the Terence Rattigan Society was launched last year, this is the first occasion when our President and Vice Presidents have all been together, so I would like to give a particularly warm welcome to the President,  Princess Galitzine and the Vice Presidents – Greta Scacchi and David Suchet (both of whom are appearing in demanding roles in the theatre this evening) and Michael Darlow and Geoffrey Wansell.

Thank you also Geoffrey, and Giles Cole for hosting us today at your club. Before welcoming our other distinguished guests, Lee Penhaligan, Chairman of the Sir Terence Rattigan Charitable Trust is going talk about the Trust’s role and the centenary year.”

After the speech by Lee Penhaligan, Barbara Longford presented David Suchet with his scroll, marking his Vice Presidency of the Society and said the following.

“We are also fortunate today to be in the presence of several people closely associated with Terence Rattigan’s work –  Sir Donald Sinden who appeared, briefly, in Joie de Vivre in 1960 and In Praise of Love in 1973. Wendy Craig and Peter Sallis, who played leading roles in the original BBC television production of ‘Heart to Heart’ were invited as special guests but are unable to attend.  Claire Bloom was also unable to be present but Alvin Rakoff attended.  Claire played Lydia in the definitive production of “In Praise of Love” directed by Alvin Rakoff and I understand that Terence Rattigan saw this production towards the end of his life and was very moved by it.

There are others amongst us who knew or at least met Sir Terence – his close friend Adrian Brown:  biographer and director, Michael Darlow:  his second cousin,  Philippa Comber: the director of the film ‘Bequest to the Nation’ – James Cellan Jones and well known restaurateur, Elena Salvoni.  If any of you would like to say a few words about Terence Rattigan there will be an opportunity a little later on.

But before that,  as this is the first occasion when David Suchet has been able to attend a Society event, I should like to take this opportunity of  formally recognising his Vice Presidency of the Society.

Most of you will recall David’s magnificent portrayal of Gregor Antonescu in ‘Man and Boy’ a few years ago and last July at our first Committee meeting we decided that of all the actors who had appeared in Rattigan’s plays over recent years, David’s performance in that role was the most outstanding in its depth, complexity and power.  So I wrote to David last August inviting him to honour Sir Terence’s memory by becoming our Vice President and to our delight he replied by return of post,  to accept.  David, it’s a great honour to have you with us today, especially as you are playing such a demanding role in Long Day’s Journey into Night this evening.  We thank you and on behalf of all the members of the Terence Rattigan Society,  I am proud to present you with the Scroll of Honour.”

David Suchet made three speeches on the day, one in the church (written by Geoffrey Wansell) another during the tree planting and a further speech on accepting his scroll.  All three speeches have been recorded and filmed and, with Mr Suchet’s approval, we hope to be able to show these extracts at a future members’ event.



The Society booked the entire theatre in Jermyn Street to see a new play written by Giles Cole, who is the Society’s Editor.  Giles’s play rang to packed houses and later transferred to the Riverside Studios.

The following details appeared in the Society’s newsletter ‘The Rattigan Version’

DO JOIN US for this new play about Terence Rattigan, which premiered at the Brighton Fringe Festival in May and, after critical acclaim, (“I felt I had encountered the real Rattigan” – Charles Spencer, The Daily Telegraph) it has been brought into the West End for a wider audience to enjoy.

As Rattigan waits for the curtain to rise on his last West End play (Cause Célèbre) he can no longer resist the memories that haunt him: his schooldays at Harrow; his disagreements with his philandering father; his devotion to his mother; his lovers, one of whom committed suicide and purportedly inspired one of his great plays, The Deep Blue Sea; his huge success and wealth, followed by his spectacular fall from favour with the rise of the new wave of British Drama and how it embittered him; and, through all this, his relationships with two of his closest friends and the lover of whom they disapproved. The Art of Concealment is a play not only about the demons that haunted one of our great playwrights but about the creative process itself, and the process of ageing, of loss, loyalty, and of unhappiness in love.

Members had an early supper before the show at Getti’s Restaurant, next door to the theatre. President, Princess George Galitzine and Vice President Geoffrey Wansell attended the event.  Afterwards members joined the cast for a glass or two of bubbly and a vote of thanks from Geoffrey Wansell.




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