Theatre Review - The Winston Machine

KANDINSKY’S intergenerational play looks at the different ways the Second World War has been mythologised, and how family stories continue to permeate our modern-day consciousness.

Becky (Rachel-Leah Hosker) loves to sing the romantic wartime songs and is devoted to the memory of her grandfather Bill (Nathaniel Christian) – a Spitfire pilot – who married her glamorous grandmother Charlotte (Hosker).

The play tracks back and forth between the past and the present day. Becky cooks and cares for her father Mark (Hamish MacDougall) who has different memories of Bill. We are given glimpses of Mark’s childhood, dominated by a strict, bullying father who had clearly been traumatised by war.

Becky has a boring office job and yearns for romance. Instead, she settles for safe, dependable David (MacDougall) who wants them to buy a house together. When Lewis, a friend from school, now a successful musician, re-enters her life, Becky’s feelings are conflicted. She persuades Lewis (Christian) to accompany her on the piano at an upcoming 1940s concert.

In attempting to capture the romance of her grandparents’ relationship, she offers Bill’s lovingly preserved RAF jacket to Lewis to wear; a poignant motif and a reminder of the pride with which we commemorate our war heroes.

There’s much to admire in this gentle play, devised collaboratively, but it feels fragmented and unfinished. The characters are under-developed, with too many competing subplots, and the tendency to merge scenes into one another makes it occasionally hard to follow. This is not helped by having three actors play all the parts.

Kandinsky explores the nostalgia embedded in stories we’re told about the Second World War and contrasts the fighting spirit invoked by Churchill – people pulling together through hard times – and our uncertain world today post-Brexit and burdened with the consequences of coronavirus.

The Winston Machine is beautifully staged but the plot meanders and it ends abruptly; final destination unknown.

Until February 19

Originally published by Camden New Journal