Review: Durham Drama Festival: Whistles


The basic concept of ’s Whistles is a good one. Think Brave New World crossed with The Famous Five, and you’re pretty much there. The story line is straightforward, and the characters all perform distinct roles within the plot. Thus, as a piece of writing alone, it should be commended.

The ambition of the performance itself also deserves recognition. Clayton utilised the black-box setting well, and was consistent in his direction. There were a number of clever ideas, especially the use of torches in the extremely effective ‘nightmare’ scene, and there were a number of small touches that were very much appreciated, such as the scattered leaves on the otherwise empty stage.

’s performance was completely convincing as ‘Isabel’, as she clearly demonstrated the characters progression from naivety to enraged realisation. Particularly impressive was her ability to give such a fraught performance mere inches away from the front row.  Ellie Jones was thoroughly dislikeable in her performance as the ‘goody-two-shoes’ Jenny.

However, there were details that prevented the show from realising its full potential. The pervasive ‘wind’ motif was demonstrated effectively, and yet it wasn’t made entirely clear how this theme was relevant to the plot. Similarly, the final image of the three silenced children was striking, and would have made a chillingly poignant end to the show; instead, Jenny’s entrance here felt unnecessary, and distracted from the otherwise stunning tableau. It was also a shame that audience members were sometimes compelled to laugh at moments that were perhaps intended to be taken more seriously.

Overall, Whistles was compelling in the way in which it brought to life dystopian possibilities; but I left with the feeling that this play is still a ‘diamond in the rough’,  yet to quite realise its perfected form.




Image: Hamish Clayton.

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