Deputy Culture Editor (Theatre)
If anyone ever asked for a description of the American Deep South, they would receive an image that was about as different from Giffnock as is feasibly possible. Yet in Giffnock, on 8 January 2018, the Deep South came to life in Starlight Youth Music Theatre’s production of Whistle Down the Wind in Eastwood Park Theatre.
Whistle Down the Wind is not the most commonly performed musical, and any familiarity with the plot would explain why. Based on Mary Hayley Bell’s novel of the same name, and its later film adaption, the musical depicts a small, deeply religious town in 1950s Louisiana. The story follows three innocent, incompetent, children who mistake an escaped convict for a newly risen Jesus Christ. Though the film was favourably received, the additions of countless unnecessary characters, as well as the lethargic effect of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical touch, causes the musical to lose any sense of the charm its source materials may have possessed.
Despite this, however, Starlight Youth Music Theatre was able to create a thoroughly entertaining production. Armed with only a limited set, the company were able to transform the stage from a rustic barn to a grungy mechanic garage and everything in between. The production also boasted an impressive array of props, including numerous pitchforks and a suitably realistic motorcycle. However, the most impressive details came from the provocative use of lighting that allowed the stage to transition seamlessly from naively optimistic to unsettlingly sinister.
As well as displaying its ability to utilize a stage, this production allowed Starlight to boast an extensive range of theatrical talent. As a company with members of all ages, it would be easy for Starlight Youth Music Theatre to come across as disjointed and unorganized. This was not the case. Each performer in Whistle Down the Wind provided enthusiasm and efficiency of the like that would be difficult for any professional to match. Particularly notable were the performances of Bethany Clark and Scott Sutherland, who portrayed the lead roles of Swallow and The Man, with a level of skill that allowed the audience to forget, however briefly, that they were being forced to endure a Webber Musical.
The mark of any great theatre company is its ability to put on a bad show. In this vein, Starlight Youth Music Theatre proved itself to be a genuinely talented company by turning an often strange and convoluted musical into a truly enjoyable piece of theatre.