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Interview: Lindsay Posner

During rehearsals for The Winslow Boy, Education Dramaturg Ted Sod spoke with Director Lindsay Posner about his thoughts on the play.

Ted Sod: I'm very curious. You started as an actor. You were trained at the Royal Academy and then, not very long after you graduated you became a director. How did that happen?

Lindsay Posner: Well, I was at university before going to RADA, where I did an English degree, and I acted and directed at university. It was always in my head that I wanted to do both, and I was given a place at RADA and a very receptive principal called Hugh Crutwell there said, "If we give you a place at RADA, do you promise never to direct?" and of course I said yes.

While I was there, I realized that my talent really was for directing more than acting. I could act a bit, but I sensed that being an outside eye and wanting to do the whole play, production, was more my inclination and talent, actually. And they let me start directing before I left. I did one or two shows and then I left. I did one acting job and went on to directing immediately after that.

Interview: Lindsay Posner

Director Lindsay Posner with Alessandro Nivola (Sir Robert Morton).
Photo by Jenny Anderson.

TS: Did you always have an interest in newer work at that time, or were you interested in the classics? Because you have really done everything...

LP: To be honest, as is the case with most directors, you take opportunities where they arise when you're very young and just starting out. I had interest in both, and the Royal Court was a fantastic place to begin because it's the perfect apprenticeship, really. And when you're through your twenties, coming into contact with great senior writers like Pinter or Caryl Churchill or Mamet, it's a great education.

TS: What attracted you to this particular play?

LP: A few things really. I mean, first of all, I think it's a great play and there aren't that many great plays. It is both a great family play and it's entertaining. It's also a political play with political resonance. I always look for relevance in a play, or a play that I feel will be accessible to a contemporary audience when I read it. And this is particularly relevant in terms of what's happening with individual liberty and responsibility and justice. We can make all sorts of contemporary references when we see it.

Also, the greatness of it is that the characters are so finely, beautifully written with complex psychological portraits. It's always great to work on a really rich play that has such rich psychological detail in it.

Interview: Lindsay Posner

Lindsay Posner with Spencer Davis Milford (Ronnie Winslow) and Roger Rees (Arthur Winslow).
Photo by Jenny Anderson.

TS: You first directed the play at The Old Vic in London last season. What are the challenges in remounting this production in America?

LP: Well, one of the immediate concerns for me is that I was very nervous. I didn't just want it to be a rehash of what I'd already done because that's not creative. So I'm approaching it as if I hadn't done it already, and I'm finding that very joyful.

Of course, I know the answers to some of the questions I'm asking, but I'm exploring it along with an actor, a completely fresh group of people with a completely different chemistry in the room, which is exciting. And already there are things I'm thinking about in a slightly different way from the way it had happened first time round. So actually, it's very rewarding for me.

TS: When I interviewed set and costume designer Peter McKintosh, he said it was a thoroughly English play. Do you feel that way?

LP: I think it is a thoroughly English play. It's very much about the British class system and the way that affects social behavior. And it's also about the way people repress their feelings in middle class British families; upper-middle class families don't say exactly what they mean a lot of the time, which, clearly, isn't so much the case in New York.

Interview: Lindsay Posner

Zachary Booth (Dickie Winslow) and Lindsay Posner.
Photo by Jenny Anderson.

TS: Do you think that part of the popularity of this play in Britain is because its central idea of "Let Right Be Done" and the Petition of Right really in some way says that the Crown is not above the law?

LP: It does. I mean, that's always been the case. But, I think there's a kind of zeitgeist feel for the British recently that hasn't always been the case with Rattigan. Actually Rattigan's not been that fashionable with British audiences. Now he's being regarded as a great writer by the British critics but he was often regarded as a bit of a boulevard writer and his star waned in the fifties when the kitchen sink writers of Osborne, Wesker, and the Royal Court writers actually gained prominence. Rattigan was always writing very fine plays, but he went out of fashion for that reason, which was a tragedy.

TS: And critic Kenneth Tynan was very cruel to him.

LP: Indeed, that's true. He said his preoccupations were outdated, you know, they were middle-class, upper-bourgeois preoccupations, which was very unfair in some ways. But I think this really taps into the fact that the British public opinion states intervention without redress, whether it's details that are being got from the internet about people's lives or people being detained for questioning about potential terrorism without any redress.

All these things are very personal at the moment and are absolutely what this play is about in some ways. And I think it's that that's made it relevant to an audience and I think hopefully will make it relevant to a New York audience as well.

Roundabout brings The Winslow Boy back to Broadway from September 20 for the first time in 60 years. For more information and tickets, please visit our website.

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