by Stanley Houghton.
Finborough Theatre 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 29 September 2012.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed, Fri & Sat 3pm (sold out apart from 26 & 28 Sept 3pm).
Captioned 29 Sept 3pm.
Post-show Discussion 25 Sept.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652 (24hr no booking fee).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 23 September.
Comic potential and individual character strengths made clear.
After the final revelation, as the lights fade, the last sight in this Finborough revival is the set of wall-high panels depicting the Lancashire countryside. Rightly so. Bethan Dear’s production might not be quite at home in Lancashire speech rhythms, alongside the accents (with one glorious exception), but it’s aware of a society where employer and employee’s mutual respect had grown, with Hindle itself, out of the surrounding moorlands.
Worker and boss have the easiest-going relationship in the play, written a century ago. Men who respected each other, they could have been partners if one had invested alongside his friend. And if the boss has to give up a marriage alliance because his son has gone to bed without getting wed, then he’ll do it.
While the balance of power between husband and wife might vary, it’s built on respect, while factory-owner and wife still instinctively do things they’ve hired a servant for.
This production’s welcome too for showing Stanley Houghton’s best-know work as a comedy, besides being both social picture and problem play. T’boss’s son’s had a dirty weekend with one o’ t’workers’ daughter during Wakes week, when the cotton mills all shut for their holidays.
The three young characters variously display fecklessness, love and independent spirit. Her mother may seize on what’s happened for its material advantage rather than moral impropriety, but Ellie Turner’s set silence and quiet determination show Fanny will decide her own way in life.
Graham O’Mara’s fecklessly smart Alan and Sarah Winter’s quiet Beatrice contrast her, while the principled agreement of Peter Ellis’s self-respecting Christopher and Richard Durden’s temperamental but honourable Nathaniel are contrasted by their wives – Susan Penhaligon’s Mrs Jeffcote a softer-mannered version of Anna Cartaret’s forceful Mrs Hawthorn. – and by Sidney Livingstone’s local bigwig.
Cheerfully corrupt, trustworthy in adversity as any politician, Livingstone’s Sir Timothy is a northern soul to the core, splendidly matching Houghton’s fellow-writer Harold Brighouse in his most famous comedy – “I’m Hobson; British, middle-class and proud of it” – saying of his new Technical School: “If it’s finest in Lancashire and Yorkshire it goes without saying it’s finest in England”.
Mrs Hawthorn: Anna Cartaret.
Christopher Hawthorn: Peter Ellis.
Fanny Hawthorn: Ellie Turner.
Nathaniel Jeffcote: Richard Durden
Mrs Jeffcote: Susan Penhaligon.
Ada: Harriet Creelman.
Alan Jeffcote: Graham O’Mara.
Sir Timothy Farrar: Sidney Livingstone.
Beatrice Farrar: Sarah Winter.
Director: Bethan Dear.
Designer/Costume: Holly Seager.
Lighting: Chris Withers.
Sound: Max Pappenheim.
Composer: Craig Adams.
Assistant director: Dan Pick.