Last Updated on January 29, 2022
The Winston Machine at the New Diorama Theatre
What happens to the descendants of war heroes? Have we ever stopped to think about the impact of World War II on the succeeding generation? The Winston Machine illustrates a family saga that started during the Blitz with the impact of the war flowing through to 80 years and two generations later in contemporary Britain. This is New Diorama’s first of three 10th anniversary season finale commissions, and explores how our relationship with World War II’s history shapes our present moment.
Brought to you by Kadinsky, a UK-based theatre company known for their deeply intelligent, thought-provoking and beautifully realized work, The Winston Machine brings the stories of three generations to life with a multi-rolling ensemble cast accompanied by an original score by Zac Gvirtman and design from Joshua Gadsby & Naomi Kuyck-Cohen.
The show opens with Charlotte saying goodbye to her lover Bill, a Spitfire pilot, who is sent to war for three to four months at a time. An awkward exchange then ensues when Charlotte insists that Bill take a photograph of her with him to remember her by. Bill eventually accepts the photograph and responds by saying that he will be back as soon as he can, both knowing but not speaking of the fact that Bill may not be able to hold up his promise.
Charlotte, played by Rachel-Leah Hosker, then breaks into song about Bill, portrayed by Nathaniel Christian, leaving her to fulfill his duties but seamlessly cuts into the present day as Rebecca, Charlotte’s granddaughter, announces that this song is to be sung in the 1940’s remembrance day weekender event. Also played by Rachel-Leah Hosker, Rebecca is seen reluctantly discussing the prospect of putting in an offer for a two-bed detached flat with Dave, her significant other.
Dave, portrayed by Hamish Macdougall, reminds a hesitant Rebecca of the positive attributes of the flat and that getting on the property ladder was something that they had dreamed of for years. It is then revealed that they are both still living with their parents to save up money for the flat. A seemingly out of place comment then reveals Rebecca’s reluctance with regards to buying a property, when she suggests just blowing all their money on travelling the world instead. When Dave asks if she was joking, she then seems to play along.
An increasingly frustrated Dave asks if they can at least just put in an offer for the flat and Rebecca relents as long as she is the one who calls up the agents. The next day, Rebecca organizes a leaving do for her office colleague and seemingly puts off making an offer for a flat as she ignores calls from Dave. During the leaving do, Rebecca bumps into an old school called Lewis, also played by Nathaniel Christian. Rebecca’s admiration for Lewis as a musician living in London is unconcealable, and when Lewis reveals that he is now staying at his sister’s place near Rebecca, they make plans to meet up. Since then, Rebecca hasn’t been returning Dave’s calls.
Lewis comes around to Rebecca’s house and we are introduced to Rebecca’s dad, also played by Hamish Macdougall, named Mark. As Mark witnesses the way that Rebecca dismisses the 1940’s remembrance day event in front of Lewis, we are shown scenes of his childhood and his early adulthood. It is revealed that Mark didn’t receive good parenting, but still considers his dad as a war hero and therefore romanticizes his father-son relationship.
Things start to get hazy from here on out. Lewis reveals that he has always fancied Rebecca, and Rebecca admits that she is jealous of the success Lewis has attained. Lewis then says that his Instagram life does not reflect his daily life where he is broke and works two jobs. The performance ends on a very uncertain note regarding the fates of the protagonists, certainly leaving the reader hanging.
Kandinsky co-artistic directors, James Yeatman and Lauren Mooney certainly achieve the juxtaposition of the war as a period of unprecedented and unmatched hardship to the present day, where we are experiencing moments of division and upheaval. This leaves the audience thinking about various themes long after they have left the auditorium.
To facilitate conversation, free Domino’s pizza is given after every performance and patrons are encouraged to connect with others over the meal. My personal take on the production is that there are themes of entrapment that could be hiding in the guise of nostalgia from the war as well as the blurring of physical and digital worlds in the present day where the digital world and travelling is seen as a form of escapism.
While the dialogue can be comical at times, the situations can be very poignant to a reality that is relatable amongst Millenials and younger, especially with regards to living a fake Instagram life while financially struggling to afford the security of a home. Are we trapped in the past while fantasizing about the future? Is this real life? I think it’s open to interpretation.
New Diorama Theatre
15-16 Triton St
25 January – 19 February 2022 / Tue-Sat 7.30pm & Sat matinees 3pm
Tickets £19 / £3 JSA previews (18-20 January)
Free pizza at all performances!