Monday, 9 December 2019

REVIEW: Whistle Down the Wind at the Union Theatre

The Union Theatre present their Christmas musical, the 1989 musical version of Whistle Down the Wind (not the Andrew Lloyd Webber one) based on the 1959 novel and 1961 film of the same name.

Cathy, Nan and Charles discover a mysterious man in their barn who they are convinced is Jesus Christ whilst the village is going crazy as there is a convict on the loose. The three children end up bringing all their friends to the barn to meet him whilst all keeping it a secret from the grown ups. In the end their father finds out about the man hiding in the barn and alerts the police however the children team up to form a barricade around the barn to stop the man being arrested, the barn gets set on fire and once distinguished the man has disappeared but there has been a cross painted on the wall. 

The story is all based around the children's belief into something they haven't any proof is true, which could be seen as a metaphor for religion as a whole. They give complete trust to this strange man who could have a dark history. 

I’m sure that within this piece there is a lesson to be learnt, but I’m not entirely sure what that could be because the choices of the director (Sasha Regan) weren’t steering the production to tell us a direct message however the writing of the piece is also left a little loose so this isn't a pure direction error. This is also a strange choice for a Christmas show, with the heavy religious themes in it, at this time of year can seem a little preachy. 

In saying this, the score is the strongest part of the show. Written by Richard Taylor, the style of the piece was a mix of Stephen Sondheim, Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alan Boubill which really worked, although the songs weren't terribly memorable the style it was told in was the best way it could have been done. 

The stars of this show are the three children, played by Sadie Levett, Tara Lucas and George Hankers. Sadie Levett is a recent graduate a carries the show as Cathy with huge success, her range in the score was phenomenal and she has a natural talent you can’t stop watching on stage. Tara Lucas proves how much of a good comedy actress she is within this piece, she finds little moments in the show that make her sparkle and she also provides fantastic vocals alongside Levett. George Hankers plays the immature and boyish role of Charles, the big brother, so well alongside the two girls and as a trio they are such wonderful casting. 

The rest of the adult casting was perhaps slightly lack lustre, as a group the vocals didn't really blend as well as I would have hoped, the space and sound is quite exposing and this didn't work to the adult casts advantage. Some over acting from some cast members also was out of place, the space is so intimate that any over acting just looks eggy. 

As a whole, the show is a slightly bizarre choice for the festive season, the message isn’t clear and I failed to see what the relevance is for a modern audience. However there is some stand out performances. This show wasn't for me, but perhaps has an audience somewhere else. 

Review by Mark Swale 

Rating: ★★★

Seat: Free Seating | Price of Ticket: £22
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