Ross by Terence Rattigan at Chichester Festival Theatre

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An excellent work that deftly weaves the historical events of the 1916-1918 Arab conflict with the role T E Lawrence played in it. The play begins in 1922 when Lawrence is a member of an Air Force base having joined under the false name, Ross. The play opens with an investigation by a senior officer of a minor offence committed by Lawrence at the air base that receives a cool disinterested intellectualism for its reply. A fellow airman recognises Lawrence and determines to reveal his whereabouts to the press in return for money.

The scene quickly gives way to the historical events of 1916-1918 moving from Egypt to the Saudi peninsula. We meet Lawrence, the younger man, full of determination and fearlessness, driven by an inner will, captivated by his cause. In 1922 all the passion is lost leaving a sterile pedantry. The Sykes-Picot Treaty has superseded him.

Joseph Fiennes was excellent in the role of Lawrence portraying someone who is profoundly altered by the history he has lived. Paul Freeman as General Allenby was also extremely good and Rattigan presents the two characters as a match for each other in their strategic and incisive capabilities. The unspeakable dreariness of the Air Force base with its rigid discipline is another world from that in which Lawrence lived and which gave him his appellation, Lawrence of Arabia.  It’s a brilliant dramatic juxtaposition.

Highlight of the show: the encounter between General Allenby and Lawrence.

4/5 WIGS

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