Windows review at Finborough Theatre, London – ‘period charm’
There are French windows in Alex Marker’s splendid set, but they are not the kind through which someone is likely to burst suggesting a game of tennis. These windows have a metaphorical function, cleaned regularly by the Hegel (or ’Aigle)– reading workman, Mr Bly, who trades philosophical notions with his liberal-minded employer, writer Geoffrey March.
Windows is set in 1921, the year before the Infanticide Act removed the death penalty for baby-killing, when the country was still reeling from the after effects of the First World War.
Bly’s daughter Faith has narrowly escaped hanging for killing her baby “to save it from life” or charitable neglect, and he has her placed, an ex-convict, as a maid in the March household. She gives the “glad eye” to young Johnny March, however, and the family’s divisions between idealism and pragmatism are thrown into further relief. Depressive Johnny, sickened (as was Galsworthy) by the glorification of war, believes he fought to save people such as Faith. Two further characters are introduced in the final scene’s twist. Can Faith be saved? Does she need saving? The position of women, beginning to find a voice but still constrained, is a rumbling theme.
Geoffrey Beevers’ production has a certain period charm, with good performances, especially from David Shelley and Carolyn Backhouse as the disagreeing March parents, and Charlotte Brimble as rebellious, confused Faith, despite Galsworthy leaving her motivations unclear. And the dining-room set, which wraps round the audience, appears spacious in the tiny Finborough.
Lawyer and Nobel prize-winner Galsworthy’s better-known work – The Forsythe Saga and plays such as Strife and Justice – indicate his political awareness and forward thinking in matters of social reform. But Windows, not seen since 1922, is a wordy, worthy addition rather than an exciting rediscovery.