by Terence Rattigan
Cause Celebre is based on the true story of Alma Rattenbury who was tried with her 18-year-old lover for the murder of her husband. Condemned by the public more for her seduction of a young boy than for any involvement she may have had in her husband's death, Alma's fate is left in the hands of the socially and sexually repressed jury forewoman, Edith Davenport. Cause Celebre was Terence Rattigan's last play, first produced in 1977. Cinematic in its structure, non-linear and even circular, the play was a departure for Rattigan from the well-made plays for which he was so well known: The Winslow Boy (1946), The Browning Version (1948) and, especially, Separate Tables (1954). Influenced by the younger playwrights of the 60s and 70s, such as Orton and Pinter, Rattigan has in Cause Celebre taken the very structure of which he was a master and turned it, if not inside out, then certainly on its prismatic side - allowing the dramatic thought of the piece to dictate its forward action.