Maybe it was lack of sleep. Maybe it was lack of food. Maybe it was lack of affection in early childhood. Whatever the reason, I bawled my eyes out at Norfolk YMT’s beautiful production of Whistle Down the Wind. The sobs and sniffs from elsewhere in the audience suggested that the cause of this emotional outburst was in fact what was happening on stage.
This is not Lloyd-Webber’s setting of the tale, but rather a version adapted by Russell Labey and Richard Taylor. The score is folky and delicate, with some astonishingly beautiful moments and more than a few tricky bits of recitative. These were navigated serenely by the able young cast, turning the idea that youngsters need strong melodies on its head.
The story follows the Bostock children as they discover a man they presume to be Jesus in their barn in Yorkshire. His identity forms the battle between youthful innocence and adult suspicion. The siblings each give stellar performances, and work well together as a group. Tilly Chitty was suitably adorable as Nan, with just a hint of girly bossiness. Marland Barsby as Charles has a great treble voice and gave a boisterous performance as the brother who is always in the wrong. My main episode of weeping came at Nicola Myers’ cracking solo as the eldest, Cathy. She gave her character a gravity beyond her years, which made her childlike belief all the more touching.
The set was beautifully evocative, if overly clunky for a fringe venue. The hordes of stage-hands required to get big sets on and off for short scenes were distracting, although their ambition cannot be faulted. That this beautiful production should be a youth project is nothing short of miraculous.