Image for The Rattigan Enigma by Benedict CumberbatchNot currently available on BBC iPlayer

Duration: 59 minutes

Benedict Cumberbatch, one of the country's leading actors, explores the life and work of enigmatic playwright Terence Rattigan.

Rattigan was the master of the 'well crafted play' of upper class manners and repressed sexuality and he dominated the West End theatre scene throughout the 40s and early 50s. But then, in the mid fifties 'the angry young men arrived'; a wave of young playwrights and directors who introduced a new, radical style of theatre. Rattigan's work faced a critical onslaught and he fell completely out of fashion. But now, in his centenary year his plays are enjoying a huge revival.

But Rattigan himself remains an enigmatic figure - a troubled homosexual whose polite, restrained dramas confronted the very issues - sexual frustration, failed relationships, adultery and even suicide - that he found so difficult to deal with in his own life. He had a gift for commercial theatre but yearned to be taken seriously as a playwright.

In this film Benedict re-visits his old school Harrow where Rattigan was also educated and was first inspired to write plays. He takes a trip down memory lane with one of Rattigan's closest friends (Princess Jean Galizine) and he talks to playwrights, critics and directors about what it is about Rattigan's work which we find so appealing today.

Last on

Wed 13 Mar 2013 01:30 BBC Four

  • Royal Theatre Haymarket

    Royal Theatre Haymarket

    Benedict Cumberbatch at the Royal Theatre Haymarket, where the recent Rattigan production of Flare Path was performed.

  • The Park, Harrow

    The Park, Harrow

    Benedict revisits his old school house, The Park, at Harrow. House photos of Terence Rattigan, who was there 65 years before Benedict, still hang on the walls.

  • School productions

    School productions

    Benedict chats with his English Teacher, Martin Tyrell, who directed him in many of his school productions including The Browning Version by Terence Rattigan.

  • The Rattigan Enigma

    The Rattigan Enigma

    Actor Benedict Cumberbatch with a photo portrait of playwright Terence Rattigan.

  • Rattigan's school photo

    Rattigan's school photo

    Benedict picks out Terence Rattigan (in white), from an old school photo.


Benedict Cumberbatch
Terence Davies
David Hare
Sally Thomson
Sally Thomson
Executive Producer
Michael Poole


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