In 1912, Githa Sowerby scored a remarkable success with her first play – this fine drama about a Northern family dominated by a single-minded industrialist who puts the future of the glass manufacturing company he has nurtured far above the happiness of his own children.
In an era when women weren’t expected to be playwrights, it was initially put on under the name G.K. Sowerby and its psychological sensibilities likened to those of Ibsen.
A century later, Northern Broadsides’ production (unobtrusively edited by Blake Morrison and directed with a sure hand by Jonathan Miller) confirms its enduring merits – and relevance – as widowed capitalist Rutherford’s malign influence on his offspring is made apparent, along with his passion to secure the future of a company under threat in difficult economic times.
There are welcome touches of humour – especially from Kate Anthony’s Aunt Ann who is never short of something to complain about. But Rutherford’s loveless household is gloomily oppressive – his social snobbery blights any chance of happiness for his thirty-six year old daughter, one son has become an ineffectual clergyman, and the other (despite an expensive Harrow education) has returned from London with a working class wife and no desire to take over the works.
Well written and astute (despite the occasional drift towards melodrama) this is a very welcome revival in which Catherine Kinsella’s acutely observed, constantly snubbed Mary reveals unexpected mettle and Barrie Rutter’s tyrannical paterfamilias leaves no doubt about the determination of a man convinced, no matter what the cost, that he always knows best.
St James, 21 Palace Street, SW1E 5JA
Until 29th June
£15 – £50.00
Photo: Nobby Clark