Review: Whistle Down the Wind, Union Theatre

A gently lovely production of Whistle Down the Wind makes for a tender Christmas treat at the Union Theatre

“He’s not a fella, he’s Jesus”

Do miracles happen in Burnley? You might not have immediately thought so but Whistle Down the Wind begs to differ. Russell Labey and Richard Taylor’s adaptation, as distinct from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jim Steinman’s, draws variously on Mary Hayley Bell’s novel, Willis Hall and Keith Waterhouse’s screenplay and Richard Attenborough and Bryan Forbes’ film to tell its own version of Jesus appearing once again in a stable, kinda sort of maybe. 

Cathy, Nan and Charles are three Lancashire schoolkids who one day find a strange man in their barn. Rumours of a convict on the loose are swirling around their village but Cathy immediately clocks him as our Lord Jesus Christ and swears her siblings to secrecy. Sure enough, word soon spreads around the other local kids but as they all decide to keep the secret too, delighting in the rapturous devotion he, or He, inspires in them. Continue reading “Review: Whistle Down the Wind, Union Theatre”

Review: Brass the Musical, Union Theatre

Brass the Musical at the Union Theatre is a powerfully moving celebration of sacrifices made, of service offered, of music itself – beautifully done

“Just until our lads come back”

There’s a neat symmetry to the life of Brass the Musical thus far. Originally commissioned by the National Youth Music Theatre to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, its professional London premiere now marks the Armistice Centenary. Benjamin Till’s musical, with additional lyrics from Nathan Taylor and Sir Arnold Wesker, thus serves as a powerful tribute to those who served, both at home and on the frontline.

What is particularly gorgeous about Brass is how it is suffused with the joy of music. Its power to bring people together (as in the characterful ‘Forming a Band’), its potential to lift spirits (the marvelous storytelling of ‘Whistle Billy’), its ability to express something deeper beyond just words (the haunting vocalese at the trenches). And as an expression of the musical theatre form, it works beautifully in deepening an already profoundly moving piece of history.  Continue reading “Review: Brass the Musical, Union Theatre”