Review: show closed
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Image: Finborough Theatre
Janet Amsden - Cook
Carolyn Backhouse - Joan March
Charlotte Brimble - Faith Bly
Vincent Brimble - Mr Bly
Jacob Coleman - George Blunter
Duncan Moore - Johnny March
David Shelley - Geoffrey March
Eleanor Sutton - Mary March
Christopher White - PC Barnaby
"It's ‘ardly worth while to do these winders.
You clean'em, and they're dirty again in no time.
It's like life.
And people talk o' progress.
What a sooperstition!"
1922. In the aftermath of the First World War, Britain is left questioning the relevance of the ideals and values for which it fought, but which society seems to have forgotten.
When writer Geoffrey March proposes to his family that they employ a young woman with a questionable past as their new maid, his high-minded ideals are suddenly challenged by those around him.
Finding support for his beliefs in the girl's father, a philosophical window cleaner, he follows the path which he believes to be decent and moral.
But when his son begins to fall in love with her, the family discover that ideals can have serious consequences …
Described by John Galsworthy as "a comedy for idealists and others", Windows is a fascinating exploration of class and of a generation struggling to catch up with their lives in a world that has been altered forever by war.
First performed at the Royal Court Theatre in 1922 and set in the same year, this play by Nobel Laureate, John Galsworthy, seems to have been almost ignored by professional theatre companies in the intervening years.
It's baffling to comprehend why that should be.
The rarity of productions is enough on its own to justify a visit since it doesn't seem likely that it will see the light of day again any time soon.
But an additional motivation to see a performance has to be its prolific and highly-regarded author, who is probably best known for his series of novels and interludes collectively known as 'The Forsyte Saga'.
In Alex Marker's authentic design, almost half the audience are, effectively, sitting on the set, lending the feeling of being participants in the unfolding events.
So much so that, as the debate between members of the March household develops, it's almost tempting to add our voices to the sometimes heated conversation.
The March family is headed by Geoffrey March, a liberal-minded writer who rails against the government's policies and actions as he reads his daily paper each morning.
His poet son, Johnny, fought in the Great War but still believes in chivalry.
Mrs March busies herself with household responsibilities, and grown-up daughter Joan still lives at home too.
The March's don't do church being "agnosticals" as their hard-working and devoted, but uneducated cook describes them.
Their liberal values, though, are about to be tested when their window cleaner asks if his daughter, Faith, can be employed as a maid in the household.
This presents a dilemma for the March family because Faith has recently been released from prison after being convicted of smothering her baby and narrowly avoiding the death penalty.
Mrs March is against the appointment largely because she categorises Faith as a 'minx' whose character and background will lead to some kind of disastrous outcome.
And Mrs March's worst fears seem to be realised when son Johnny and Faith are later discovered kissing in the parlour.
Prudently and neatly divided into three well-written and easily-digested acts, John Galswothy's play still offers ample intellectual stimulation, even if its class-orientated themes have morphed into a different guise in our modern society.
However, the denouement muddies the issues somewhat by introducing what seems to be an unnecessary complication and something of a distraction, leaving an odd sense that Mrs March's original assumptions about Faith's character are justified.
That may not have been John Galsworthy's intention - and possibly I'm missing the point.
But I can't help feeling that the ending serves more as a climax to a play, rather than an effective way to round-off the class-based discussion which had gone before, even if it also illustrates further exploitation of Faith's youth and class.
Mostly subtle, unforced humour does sit alongside passionate debate here as the March's confront their prejudices, but the comedic element takes a more subservient role than Mr Galsworthy's description of his play may indicate.
Playing in a relatively tight space presents no problems whatsoever for an effortlessly capable ensemble who provide a flawless and absorbing two hours of stimulating theatre.
And Geoffrey Beevers' stylishly fluent and welcome revival brings John Galsworthy's still provocative play out of the shadows of theatrical history to spark debate and be enjoyed in equal measure.
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ActDrop listing for Finborough Theatre
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