Terence Rattigan is Born
Vera Rattigan gave birth to Man & Boy playwright Terence Rattigan in June of 1911. Frank Rattigan, Terence’s father, was a well-known rich diplomat and provided Terence with an upper class lifestyle that would influence the characters in his plays. Frank and Vera Rattigan often traveled to fulfill their diplomatic duties in the first years of his life, Terence accompanied them. As he got older, Terence stayed behind with his brother, under the care of his grandmother, several nannies and servants. By 1916, five-year-old Terence had only spent a few months in the presence of his father.
Eight Year Old Proclaims He Will be a Playwright
Terence Rattigan knew from an early age that he wanted to be a playwright. At the age of seven, he saw Cinderella and fell in love with not only the story but also the characters that captured his imagination. At age eight, during a visit with his parents, Terence told them he was going to be a playwright. They in turn told him he was to attend boarding school with his brother at Sandroyd Prep. At school, Rattigan immersed himself in performing in school plays almost completely forgetting about his studies.
Frank Rattigan's Fall From Grace
While at school, Rattigan’s father was forced into retirement after a disagreement with his boss and their income was significantly reduced. Despite his father’s fall from grace, Rattigan continued moving forward with his dream. He remained at school and even won an elite scholarship to attend Harrow Prep School. At Harrow, he began writing his first scripts while continuing to see and read as many plays as he could. Also while at school, Terrence entered into his first romantic relationship. In 1927, he had a love affair with Geoffrey Gilbey, a correspondent for the Daily Express. Homosexuality was not socially acceptable at the time and therefore had to be kept a secret.
Terence Rattigan's First Play: First Episode
Rattigan received a scholarship to attend Trinity College, Oxford where he quickly became involved in the Oxford University Dramatic Society. In 1933, he premiered his first play entitled First Episode, co-written with his classmate Philip Heimann. After terrible reviews and no financial profit from the performances, Rattigan left Oxford without a degree and returned home to write. His father agreed to give him a small stipend for two years in order to foster his son’s career as a playwright.
Terence Rattigan Fulfills Boyhood Dream
After years of continuous writing and several rejection letters from various theatrical managers, Rattigan found success. In November of 1936, his comedy French Without Tears premiered at the Criterion Theatre and became a hit. The following years were tumultuous for Rattigan. Instead of writing more plays, he spent most of his time at parties, drinking, gambling and having love affairs with various young men. In 1939, Rattigan faced depression and severe writer’s block. He consulted a psychiatrist who suggested he go fight in World War II for a cure. He took the advice and towards the end of his military service, Rattigan began writing once again. His wartime experiences inspired Flare Path which proved to be another success in the London theatre scene.
Rattigan's Film-work: “It’s not for fun, it’s for the money.”
New York City, 1963
After the war, Rattigan delved into playwriting and also screenplays. He had a series of hits both on stage and screen, including stage and film versions of The Winslow Boy and The Deep Blue Sea. Each story derived from his personal experiences and emotional desires. Man and Boy was one of Rattigan’s final pieces of playwriting that he hoped would solidify him in the canon of great British playwrights. The reviews in London however were mixed after its opening. Determined to make it a success, Rattigan made script changes and opened Man and Boy in New York in November of 1963.
Terence Rattigan Dies
Rattigan continued his artistic endeavors even after he was diagnosed with leukemia in 1971. He was knighted by the Queen at the age of sixty and had published several books containing his play collections. After a diverse career in theatre, film and radio, he died in his home in Bermuda in 1977. He is recognized as one of the great playwrights of the 20th century and new audiences rediscover his work today as revivals of his plays continue to carry on his legacy throughout the world.
Man and Boy is playing at the American Airlines Theatre through November 27, 2011. For more information about the show or how to purchase tickets, click here.
2011-2012 Season, Education @ Roundabout, Man and Boy, Upstage