Husbands & Sons***** (National Theatre, Dorfman)

Posted: November 16, 2015 in Theatre

Husbands-And-Sons-posterThree households lying side-by-side in a Nottinghamshire mining village in 1911 form the setting for this inspired adaptation of three DH Lawrence plays – The Daughter-in-LawThe Widowing of Mrs Holroyd and A Collier’s Friday Night. The walls of the houses are invisible and the plays run together, scenes alternating, with characters from each meeting in the street. The performance is in the round (well oblong), with the audience changing ends at the interval so as to become more closely involved in different dramas. Ben Power is the adaptor and, unsurprisingly when something as imaginative as this appears at the National, the director is Marianne Elliot. The plays work together brilliantly, painting a unique picture of a struggling community, bound by codes of loyalty and morality that, in many ways, seem strange in the modern world. The title is misleading; “Wives and Mothers” would have been more apt, as this is a matriarchal society held together by the fortitude of its women, the men being workhorses who are weak-willed and often drunk. In a company of over 20, Anne-Marie Duff is the star name, giving a wonderful performance as Lizzie Holroyd, protecting her young son from her husband (Martin Marquez), a violent drunkard, and being drawn by the attentions of a younger electrician (Philip McGinley). Louise Brearley is a revelation as Minnie, daughter-in-law in the Gascoigne home, determined to make her marriage to the errant Luther (Joe Armstrong) work in spite of opposition from his domineering mother (Susan Brown). In A Collier’s… another mother (Julia Ford) relegates her husband to insignificance and smothers her student son (Johnny Gibbon). The production runs for three hours, but we want it to be six. Unquestionably one of the year’s best.

Performance date: 9 November 2015

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