Part of the Play A Day season at the Orange Tree theatre, when new plays were presented as a play reading performance by established actors. Winter was 'performed' on 8th July, 1983.
Alan Howard in Winter by David Mowat
Father, daughter, wife, death and incest.
Incest between brother and sister sends a shudder of horror down the centuries that separate us from the Jacobean tragedies; while Hamlet and Oedipus give us a classical perspective that inoculates our shock at one kind of mother love.
But offhand I can recall no dramatised attempt to face realities of the sort of father and daughter relationship that has become the common traffic of agony columns and women's page features. How surprising then to find David Mowat tackling the subject head on in his recent play Winter, one of last week's play readings at the Orange Tree, a small scale but useful contribution to our understanding.
A molecular biologist and his daughter, a student nurse, are thrown together in an isolated house in winter. His wife, her mother, is absent and they huddle together for company and then for passionate companionship. The author's aim is to explore the biological urges of incest and by remarkably tactful construction he carries us unprotesting into the subject - not voyeurs but sympathetic auditors - and on to the final tragedy.
Or perhaps this was due to the attractiveness and skill of the leading players. Alan Howard, in a rare modern role for our most illustrious unknighted actor, was tight-lipped as the agonised father; chewing on a pencil that stood in for a pipe and blurting out disjointed confessions. His daughter was given a warm complex personality by Leslee Udwin, who displayed the fire and intelligence in performance that won her rave reviews last year in Not Quite Jerusalem at the Royal Court.
Both seemed to have memorised sections of the text and to have developed their characterisations well beyond the level of a normal play reading.
On one of the hottest evenings in living memory, the audience sat enthralled by the unfolding drama. There are so few strong parts for women that it seems unfortunate that Miss Udwin will not be taking her performance to full dramatic presentation - or that Auriol Smith as the wife will not have the chance to develop the supporting character.
The Richmond and Twickenham Times, 15th July, 1983.
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