The Wind Of Heaven
Finborough Theatre Winter 2019
It may be surprising
that just seventy-five years ago a mainstream West End playwright would
unremarkably produce a mainstream West End play about faith,
discovering one's calling, and the Second Coming of Christ in a Welsh
Emlyn Williams also
directed and starred in The Wind Of
Heaven, which is well-constructed, fully developed and marked by a
total respect for its theme and characters.
It is also
slow-moving, talky, and concerned with issues modern audiences may
have difficulty relating to.
The possibility of
pending in a Welsh village draws the attention of a mix of locals and
A big-city circus owner
is in search of an exploitable new
sensation, a local woman whose personal tragedies have destroyed her
religious faith is sceptical, a more religious local is excited, a
rational and bemused observer of life is attracted to the potential
of another anecdote for his collection.
And when a local boy
to perform miracles and, more significantly, has an air about him
that generates intense reverence, each of the others reacts in
thoroughly in-character ways.
The religious locals are
circus man instinctively makes plans to use his publicity skills to
promote the Messiah, the spiritually dead woman finds a love of life
re-awakening in her along with religious belief.
There are obstacles
and waverings, but generally the important characters undergo
spiritual rebirths that the play takes seriously without exaggerating
That calm moderation and
refusal to treat the subject
sensationally may well be the play's most admirable quality, but also
Without more guidance
and goading from the playwright
a twenty-first century audience will have trouble being sufficiently
moved by the small story of a handful of characters each affected in
their own small ways by what the play is very careful to acknowledge
might just be the illusion of something divine.
In the current
production director Will Maynard very wisely treats the play with
total seriousness and dedication, ploughing through its surface flaws
to find the strength that lies in its sincerity.
The circus man is a
volatile character, driven by hungers and enthusiasms that he barely
suspects in himself before they overwhelm him, but is at the same
time ultimately a small man, whose passions are never going to be all
You can see why playwright-actor Emlyn Williams chose the complex role for himself in 1945, and here Jamie Wilkes plays him as a model of controlled excitement, capturing all the contradictions of worldliness and religious hunger, appetite and limitation, and successfully finding a coherent, believable and sympathetic character.
Rhiannon Neads takes
the lost-faith woman on a quieter but
no less layered journey as the slowly thawing ability to believe goes
hand-in-hand with the ability to feel, faith and joy touchingly
mingling in her eyes as the play progresses.
There is solid support
from a large cast, notably David Whitworth as the bemused observer,
Louise Breckon-Richards as a villager of simple faith, and Melissa
Woodbridge as a temptress from the circus man's past.
The Finborough has a strong tradition of reviving and re-exploring lost plays of the earlier Twentieth Century. If they haven't quite found gold here, it is at least bronze and possibly silver, and fascinating as an indicator of what our great-grandparents found popular entertainment.
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Review - The Wind Of Heaven - Finborough Theatre 2019