I went to see this production at the Union Theatre in Southwark on a last-minute whim, being at a loose end one Sunday afternoon. This is NOT the Andrew Lloyd Webber version, but an earlier adaptation of Mary Hayley Bell’s novel by Russell Labey and Richard Taylor, with music and lyrics by Taylor. Here, it is directed by Sasha Regan; the production was originally performed in 2015 and has been revived for 2019.
Whistle Down The Wind is the story of three children who find a man hiding in their barn who they believe to be Jesus Christ. Frankly it sounds ridiculous to modern ears, but the production manages to make this odd deduction somewhat plausible. Jesus, and religion, are on the minds of these motherless youngsters (they are being brought up by their dad and their aunt on a rural Lancashire farm in the 1950s) and it makes an odd sort of sense to have him turn up in their vicinity. What the children don’t know, though, is that ‘Jesus’ is an escaped convict, and is being hunted by by the local police.
There is much that is poignant in this show, which is incredibly moving regardless of your views on Christianity. There are also moments of humour, most notably during the school Nativity play towards the end. The music is beautiful and superbly sung by all involved, particularly during the ensemble numbers featuring the young cast in chorus.
Of the cast, Sadie Levett particularly stands out as Cathy, the eldest of the three children, naive without being annoying. Juan Miralles as the mysterious man in the barn conveys a complex personality hidden beneath a grumpy exterior, and there is an amusing turn from Eoin McKenna as the tense local vicar.
Overall, a profound and memorable production, which I’m glad I made the effort to see.