THE WIND AND THE RAIN at the Finborough Theatre
“while Hodge’s plot is a little thin, his dialogue is plenty fun, giving rise to some excellent performances.”
I love a quiet story, where nothing much appears to happen, while tension and longing roil beneath the surface. The Wind and the Rain is so almost that, but unfortunately tensions are a little too tepid and nothing ever really comes to bear.
A group of 1930s medical students move into their lodgings for the new academic year. Tritton (Joe Pitts), a newcomer and awfully serious about his studies, finds himself falling for young Kiwi sculptor, Anne (Naomi Preston-Low), despite being as good as betrothed back in London.
And that’s pretty much the whole story. There’s no slow development between the love birds, barring their first meeting, so the meat of the plot happens right at the beginning. We do eventually meet Tritton’s betrothed, Jill, but despite this being a highlight, she’s such an obviously poor match, and Tritton disapproves of her behaviour so entirely, that it’s completely implausible they’ll end up together.
Director Geoffrey Beevers seems desperate to find some juicy subtext, and some of the lines are delivered so bizarrely in the opening act, I wonder if this isn’t going to become a thriller. The looks between the two long-term tenants when their new lodger arrives suggests something very foreboding indeed, and John Williams (Harvey Cole) who is generally the relief, mutters with fear, “I’m sweating”. On discussing her sympathy for newcomers learning the ropes, Mrs McFie, the po-faced landlady, ominously remarks, “There’s an awful lot you’d be better off not knowing.”
The theatre’s website mentions that this story is likely inspired by writer Merton Hodge’s own experiences “as a bisexual man in the 1930s”, which might explain Beever’s attempted angle, but there doesn’t appear to be any hint of Hodge’s bisexuality in the text itself, so instead we have these strange moments of forced tension that don’t make any sense with the actual dialogue.
That being said, while Hodge’s plot is a little thin, his dialogue is plenty fun, giving rise to some excellent performances.
Jenny Lee’s Mrs McFie is wonderfully odd, desperate to be in company, but deaf to social cues, and I feel rather sorry for her when her tenants so often interrupt her ramblings and send her off to fetch coal or dinner.
As I mentioned, the appearance of Jill, played by Helen Reuben, is a treat, bringing a taste of London glitz to the drab student lodgings. She’s presumably supposed to seem frivolous beside Tritton’s new love, earnest Anne, but Reuben makes her the fizz in the champagne, and everyone else appears dull and repressed in her presence.
Her escort, Roger, played by Lynton Appleton, is another highlight, playing a perfectly pretentious idiot and offering some much-needed silliness. Appleton later appears as a very green, awkward new student in the final scene, and while the plot’s pace has, by this point, nearly entirely dropped off, Appleton is quietly acting his socks off in the corner, despite having very few lines.
Carla Evans has designed a straight-forward, but wonderfully detailed set, complete with a buck’s head above a tiled fireplace, a kitchen crockery display cabinet and a beautiful old record player. The passing of time is denoted by the ritualistic changing of tablecloths, which seems a bit unnecessary and adds long minutes to an already long play.
There is definitely something to this story, but Beever hasn’t quite hit the nail on the head in the execution. Or perhaps, given it was written in the ‘30s, The Wind and the Rain might be more suited to a loose adaptation than a true-to-script production.
Reviewed on 13th July 2023
by Miriam Sallon
Photography by Mark Senior
Previously reviewed at this venue: