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The Children's Hour

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by Kitty Goodall (subscribe)
I love the arts and creativity. My early career was in teaching, writing, producing and directing for film, theatre, comedy and improv shows. Now I'm a professional creative content producer, mostly on digital platforms.
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Thought provoking community theatre in Windsor
Vivien, Whittle, Alexandria, Page, Children's, Hour, Peter, Cabral
L-R Alexandria Page and Vivien Whittle as Martha Dobie and Karen Wright. Photo by Peter Cabral, courtesy of Growl Theatre.

If you enjoy thought provoking theatre that keeps your rapt attention, I should warn you, there are only a couple more nights' performances of The Children's Hour left. This Growl Theatre production can be seen on Friday 26th and Saturday 27th of June at Windsor's historic (albeit relocated in 2009) Windsor School of Arts Hall at Clark Park.

The highly acclaimed play ran for a whopping 691 performances when it was first staged in 1934, which is a little surprising considering it deals with accusations of sexual impropriety one might imagine would be shocking to a mid-thirties audience. While modern audiences may not be as scandalised by the subject matter, it's certainly no less relevant in its subject.

At the heart of the play we find the themes of gossip, of lies and of what it is to be a woman. 'Breeding is much to be desired in a woman', 'Eavesdropping is something a lady should never do'… there are constant reminders throughout the play of the limitations and societal rules placed upon ladies. Considering science has shown on average we each lie about ten times a week, watching the ramifications as just one terrible lie spirals out of control is a terrifying reminder of the harm done by gossip and fibbing.

The cast of this particular production have to be applauded for their abilities to remain focused despite some traffic noise leaking into the theatre from outside, along with a somewhat fidgety and chatty audience, one of whom even committed the theatre sin of leaving a mobile phone switched on, while others managed to kick over their drinks, clattering cans and bottles across the hall with acoustics that could amplify a pin drop during the poignant moments. The actors didn't miss a beat or blink an eye in the face of these distractions, remaining ensconced in their world of 1930s Massachusetts.

Vivien, Whittle, Alexandria, Page, Children's, Hour, Peter, Cabral
L-R Alexandria Page and Vivien Whittle as Martha Dobie and Karen Wright. Photo by Peter Cabral, courtesy of Growl Theatre.

For my money, the stand out performances were from Vivien Whittle and Alexandria Page who played Karen Wright and Martha Dobie respectively, the women stuck at the centre of malicious, career and life destroying rumours. The pair's commitment and realism was the kind that makes you forget yourself and your surrounds.

The play suffered occasionally from a case of the drifting accent, mostly striking some of the actors in the more intensely emotional moments, and some of the physicality was a little too modern for the period, but neither of these things destroyed the plot for me. It was very engaging and well-paced, and clearly director Meredith Downes has done a great job in rehearsing the cast as queues were picked up and staging was solid. The large ensemble of teenagers playing the school girls were directed to the point where some delivered performances beyond their years, which is always impressive.

children's, hour, play, theatre, show, windsor, ella, st, clair, peter, cabral
Ella St Clair as Mary Tilford

I love it when actors draw out some likeable moments when playing villains as it's truer to life. So while I would have liked to have seen a little more likability injected into the character of Mary Tilford (played by Ella St Claire) she did a fine job of making the crowd love to hate her nasty trouble-making brat. I heard people behind me cursing her as she selfishly bullied and manipulated those around her.

The set design was understated, but effective in taking you back in time and costume design fit the characterisation and period rather well. Overall it was an enjoyable play that was well rehearsed and leaning more toward the professionally polished side of community theatre.

Those who like snacks and drinks will be glad to hear there is a cash only bar with soft drinks, beer and wine, lollies, chips and chocolate at the venue. There's a short interval amid the show that wraps up around the ten pm mark. If you're heading to the theatre from the north lanes of Lutwyche Road, there's a handy car park right next to the hall. If you're coming from the south I recommend parking in or around Maygar Street and taking the short walk from there.
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Why? See some gripping local theatre
When: 7.30pm Friday 26th and Saturday 27th June
Phone: please purchase tickets via the website
Where: Windsor School of Arts Hall, 381 Lutwyche Rd, Windsor
Cost: $10-$17
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