Play: Husbands and Sons by D H Lawrence, adapted by Ben Power

Performed at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester and directed by Marianne Elliott. 

                                     A co-production with the National Theatre.

    Husbands and Sons takes us to the mining villages where D H Lawrence was brought up and has been created by merging three separate plays : A Collier’s Friday Night, The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd and The Daughter-in-Law.They were not originally written to be seen together and DH Lawrence did not in fact ever see them staged.The result is a look into a whole mining community, in 1911. 

    We are presented with the stories of three different mining families: The Lamberts, Gascoignes and the Holroyds. The staging allows us to see the community as a whole with different areas of the stage given over to each family. The mine itself is ever present with a huge metal frame which is lowered and raised to signify the mine. As the miners walk through the mist across the stage, it is possible to imagine them coming up into the daylight from the dusty depths below.

    In each household are waiting the women of the house. Minnie Gascoigne, newly married to Lucas, has filled her house with more genteel touches. Unfortunately for her, the presence of her mother-in -law looms large over her son. Lydia Lambert is awaiting the arrival of her student son, who she idolises at the expense of her husband. Lizzie Holroyd is torn between her errant husband and an attentive suitor.  

    Although three hours in length, the play moved smoothly on and the three families gave the evening a sense of momentum as the focus moved amongst them. I enjoyed the use of mime to show the ritual of donning hats and coats, which seems to punctuate each family's area. All the domestic activities of eating, washing, dressing served to underpin the enclosed atmosphere within each house and separate them from the mine outside, as each family played out their own power struggle.

In short: an almost claustrophobic look at the tensions within a tight mining community.     


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