REVIEW: The Daughter-in-law, Crucible

editorial image
0
Have your say

AS the lights come up on set designer Simon Daw’s immaculate recreation of the kitchen of a turn-of-the century terraced house, with a woman busying herself at the massive range. there’s a momentary fear that this could be a parody of a northern, working-class drama.

AS the lights come up on set designer Simon Daw’s immaculate recreation of the kitchen of a turn-of-the century terraced house, with a woman busying herself at the massive range. there’s a momentary fear that this could be a parody of a northern, working-class drama.

But The Daughter-in Law, written in 1912 but not performed until 30 years after DH Lawrence’s death in 1930, proves fascinating on two counts; as a piece of social realism depicting a vanished pre-Great War world, and as a powerful and affecting drama about the difficulty of relationships between men and women that transcends its time and is contemporary.

The story is a familiar one to lovers of Lawrence’s novels. Strong-minded but vulnerable governess Minnie Gasgoyne (Claire Price) marries her social inferior, miner Luther (Philip McGinley) after a long courtship, to the disapproval of his mountain of a mother (Lynda Baron) whose strength of personality has left little for her sons, who remain in her shadow.

Unbeknown to all, Luther has got simple village lass Bertha pregnant prior to the wedding, setting off a train of misunderstandings and misery. Minnie regards Luther with a mixture of lust and contempt at his lack of drive, while he withers under her scorn and wishes he’d married Bertha for an easy life. After seven weeks of marriage they’re already at it hammer and tongs.

Price and McGinley are both excellent as the warring pair, and the best scene in the play is a savage row that suggests that this incompatible couple have no future together. But Lawrence understood precisely the way that a relationship can veer between passion, hatred, hurtfulness and downright brutality and still somehow survive, and there’s a tentatively upbeat ending, but with the knowledge that a rocky marital road lies ahead for the pair.

A small cast, assuredly directed by Paul Miller, all more or less master the thick, near-impenetrable Nottinghamshire dialect. Lynda Barron is superb as the matriarchal Mrs Gasgoyne, Andrew Hawley as Luther younger brother Joe is a kindly presence, and Marlene Sidaway as busybody neighbour and mother of the wronged girl, is so authentic she seems to have almost wandered in from last century.

Jane Tadman