Windows is entertaining and polished. Written by John Goldsworthy who is most well know as the author of The Forsyte Saga, this is a play that was written to foster social change. This production has been well conceived and performed.
Windows opens with the family at breakfast. The father is an educated man who writes for a newspaper; he leaves the table to peruse the morning edition. Mother fusses over the domestic arrangements of the day before telling the daughter of the house to clear away the breakfast because they still have failed to find a maid. The daughter does so but not until she has goaded her brother into a childlike bickering exchange. The son is a veteran of the trenches of World War 1. He is a poet and seen to be nervous and serious of demeanour.
There are three acts, and hence two intervals in this production, as it was written. Geoffrey Beevers has directed a nicely timed play that rides a wave of energy with the characters beginning and ending as heightened versions of reality. Each one passes through a period of reality as events arise to challenge societal norms. Particularly pleasing is the attention to detail in the opening scenes of each act. The repetition of the family at the table is a nice touch that clarifies the changes.
The production is housed in a lovely realistic set by Alex Marker that is resplendent in detail and supports the drama well. There is a fine sound design by Richard Bell that includes a very faint birdsong at one point that emphasises the very English setting.
Lighting design by Robbie Butler follows the rhythm of the direction and is suitably subtle until the climax at the end of the play when a surge of light heralds the new state.
David Shelley plays the role of the father, Geoffrey March, with finesse and a light comedic touch. His character evolves from a gruff and remote exterior to a deeper sympathy towards the plight of the lower classes. The mother is played by Carolyn Backhouse who is beautiful in the role. Backhouse commands the stage just as her character rules the family.
Johnny March is the returned veteran and is portrayed by Duncan Moore as a romantic idealist. Moore does well to capture the fragility of the character. Eleanor Sutton creeps into the strength of her character as the play progresses.
In an echo of Goldworthy’s best known work, The Forsyte Saga, the family are above stairs and below stairs there is only the cook as the play begins. Janet Amsden is perfectly cast as the ebullient cook who dotes on the son.
Supplementing the live-in staff of one is a window cleaner. Mr Bly is a mature age man with cockney accent and an attitude. He resembles the character of Alfred Dolittle in Pygmalion. Mr Bly is likewise a philosopher who startles the well-to-do master of the house with deep insights. Mr Bly is well crafted by Vincent Brimble.
It is Mr Bly who introduces the catalyst for change into the March household. His daughter, Faith, is recently released from prison where she was serving a deferred sentence for the murder of her infant child. Faith is taken on as the maid against the instincts of the mother of the house.
Faith was a single mother whose morals are thus in question and, seemingly inevitably, there is a kiss between her and the son. The kiss is seen by Cook who tells the mother who banishes the girl and the son takes action to have her reinstated. The third act is a melodrama that is heightened in the acting style.
It is curious that the events of almost a century ago should still have relevance today, but the questions of assumptions made of people on the basis of circumstances of birth, education and appearance are current.
Windows is a good example of the genre and this production is entertaining and polished.