First performed in 1945, Emlyn Williams’ play The Wind of Heaven depicts a Welsh village caught in spiritual turmoil in the wake of the Crimean War.
When the widow Dilys Parry and the circus-owner Ambrose Ellis are alerted to the possibility that a young boy named Gwyn might be the new messiah, they start recovering their long-renounced faith. But even as Gwyn produces music out of nowhere, heals plagued men, and resurrects the dead, the incipient religious fervour of his village does not go unchallenged.
Will Maynard’s confidently sedate staging allows the characters’ contemplative confrontations to unfold patiently. Bracketed by stacked furniture on one side and a large window on the other, Ceci Calf’s evocative set grounds this verbose drama in an intimate and well-used drawing-room. Tasteful period costumes and lithe changes in lighting help create a world imbued with a heavenly glow.
Brisk performances by Rhiannon Neads and Jamie Wilkes capture the protean dynamic between Dilys and Ambrose. The strong supporting cast includes Louise Breckon-Richards as Gwyn’s quietly anxious mother and Melissa Woodbridge as Ambrose’s manipulative lover. Seiriol Tomos is trenchant as the farmer Evan who takes note of Gwyn’s powers early on.
Maynard’s production is at its strongest when it embraces its realism, which is occasionally frayed by moments of stylized delivery and movement. Even though its second half drops considerably in tempo and loses the clarity of the opening scenes, Williams’ play presents an intriguing story about the limits of spiritual scepticism.