The Price of Coal by Harold Brighouse
Night Watches by Allan Monkhouse
The Old Testament and the New by Stanley Houghton
Lonesome Like by Harold Brighouse.
Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Arms 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 13 October 2015.
Sun, Mon 7.30pm Tue 2pm.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 6 October.
Let’s hear it for the tea-lady.
Having made a packet from the family business as tea manufacturers, Annie Horniman financed new theatre in London and Ireland, before supporting England’s first regional repertory company, at Manchester’s Gaiety Theatre in the years before the First World War.
She thereby enabled the production of plays chosen for their own merit, appealing to audiences who looked to see the strains and joys of homes and workplaces like their own examined on stage in stories that excited a range of emotional responses.
One-act plays featured in many of the era’s playbills. Director Anna Marsland and her capable cast revive short pieces by the three main Manchester playwrights of a century ago. In full-length plays like Hobson’s Choice or Mary’s John Harold Brighouse shows strength of character lying in women, and so it is, more gently, in The Price of Coal, though young Mary comes close to regretting keeping her lover waiting for an answer to his proposal when the pit alarm sounds.
Industry’s replace by war in ’Manchester Guardian’ critic and playwright Allan Monkhouse’s military hospital-set Night Watches, which shares with the preceding Brighouse an optimistic outcome.
There’s a sterner mood post-interval, as Stanley Houghton Cheshire-set play darkly mirrors the father-daughter tension and subject of sexual independence of his Hindle Wakes with a father rejecting his daughter in the name of stern, blindly-obeyed biblical edicts. And, though he creates comedy and a softer resolution than might have been, Brighouse’s second play here, Lonesome Like, portrays the growing fear of an old widow as shades of the Workhouse loom ever closer.
Ursula Mohan’s fearful Sarah, lovingly packing her possessions, makes vividly clear why the Workhouse was a dark blot on an uncertain future for several generations. Her dialogue with Hannah Edwards’ young Sarah, sympathetic to the widow amid the marriage proposals she attracts, delicately shows human sympathy and isolation, especially when played with the mix of restraint and precision of emotion which evokes a strong emotional response here.
It’s a fine final element in a programme showing theatre exploring the experience of largely powerless people in England’s Northern Powerhouse a century ago.
The Price of Coal
Mary Bradshaw: Hannah Edwards.
Jack Tyldesley: Lewis Maiella.
Ellen Tyldesley: Ursula Mohan.
Polly Livesey: Jemma Churchill.
Nurse: Jemma Churchill.
Orderly: James Holmes.
First Soldier: Graham O’Mara.
Second Soldier: Lewis Maiella.
The Old Testament and the New
Martha Battersby: Jemma Churchill.
Christopher Battersby: James Holmes.
Edward Fielding: Graham O’Mara.
Mary Battersby: Hannah Edwards.
Sarah Ormerod: Ursula Mohan.
Emma Brierley: Hannah Edwards.
Sam Horrocks: Lewis Maiella.
Reverend Frank Alleyne: Graham O’Mara.
Director: Anna Marsland.
Designer: Amelia Jane Hankin.
Lighting: Rob Mills.
Sound: Simon Gethin Thomas.