The Rattigan Enigma by Benedict Cumberbatch (by Andrew Billen)
The Rattigan Enigma by Benedict Cumberbatch reminded me why I preferred English to geography at school. Although it contained neither revelation nor special insight, it was a moreish hour with Cumberbatch cast as the thesp taking us on a “theatrical journey”. Cumberbatch, fantastic in the National’s revival of After the Dance last year, was, like Rattigan, an old Harrovian, and could see how the boarding school’s soap operas would have inspired him and cemented his feeling that (as a homosexual from a relatively modest background) he was an outsider. Sadly, he would become an outsider in theatre itself once John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger made middle-class unfashionable. Happily, a few weeks before he died Cause Célèbre revived his reputation. The documentary’s use of clips from TV productions of Rattigan unwittingly reminded one of a time when TV staged classic plays, an age, somehow, that felt much more distant than Rattigan’s plays do.