Terence Rattigan's play Ross explores the enigmatic life of T.E. Lawrence and his heroic incarnation as 'Lawrence of Arabia'. It was first presented by H.M. Tennent at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London, on 12 May 1960. This edition, with an introduction by Dan Rebellato, was published alongside the revival at the Chichester Festival Theatre in 2016.
The play is structured with a framing device set in 1922, when Lawrence was hiding under an assumed name as 'Aircraftman Ross' in the Royal Air Force, and is being disciplined by his Flight Lieutenant for alleged misconduct. No one seems to have become aware of his true identity, except for a man named Dickinson, who had seen Lawrence at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and quickly attempts to blackmail him to keep his identity secret. Lawrence, however, refuses, and Dickinson decides to reveal his identity to the Daily Mirror. The action then flashes back to mid-1916 and proceeds to tell a version of Lawrence's much-contested life story, beginning with him being given an unofficial assignment as a liaison officer to the forces of the Arab Revolt.
In his introduction to the play published in the Nick Hern Books edition (2016), Dan Rebellato writes that 'Ross was Terence Rattigan’s second most commercially successful play (after the light comedy When the Sun Shines), playing for nearly two years at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, one of London’s biggest theatres. When it closed in March 1962, it had been seen by over two-thirds of a million people. .... Unfortunately, Ross coincided with the sharp downturn in Rattigan’s reputation. Although it received some of the best and most respectful reviews of his career, the goodwill it had earned him was snuffed out two months later by Joie de Vivre, a disastrous musical adaptation of French Without Tears that was booed at the opening and closed within a week. It took twenty-five years for his reputation to recover'.
The 1960 premiere was directed by Glen Byam Shaw with Alec Guinness as Aircraftman Ross.
The 2016 production was directed by Adrian Noble and designed by William Dudley, with Joseph Fiennes as Aircraftman Ross.