LOVE ON THE DOLE
by Walter Greenwood and Ronald Gow.
Octagon Theatre Howell Croft South BL1 1SB To 6 November 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat 27, 30 Oct 2pm.
Audio-described 4 Nov.
BSL Signed 28 Oct.
Runs 2hr 30min Two intervals.
TICKETS: 01204 520661.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 16October.
Good new production about the bad old days.
What a difference a generation makes. When Bolton playwright Bill Naughton’s Spring and Port Wine was seen (under its original title) at Bolton Hippodrome in 1959, it showed traditional artisan values making way for youthful freedoms.
A quarter-century earlier the adaptation of Walter Greenwood’s Love on the Dole had opened in Manchester. Here the patriarch Hardcastle is someone upholding financial propriety and standards of decency in the northern slum Greenwood called Hanky Park.
Like Naughton’s Rafe Crompton, Hardcastle feels for his children, but he can do nothing to help in his own edge-of-poverty existence – Hanky Park is what Rafe knows he has escaped.
Two years after the Octagon revived Naughton’s play they give Greenwood/Gow’s. David Thacker’s in-the-round production encloses the Hardcastles and their neighbours – only some opening political speeches around the auditorium break the tight central circle.
As the story of a family it is moving, every tension apparent. In contrast, as local bookie Sam Grundy Colin Connor displays the showy confidence of someone staying rich on poor people’s hopes.
Clare Foster’s Sally is the production’s striking centre, a bright note of hope in a dismal minor chord world. Happy, carefree, resilient and considerate, she contrasts David MacReedy as her father, stoically upholding standards even in Hanky Park. As does Barbara Pierson’s neatly-dressed mother.
Sam Lupton gives brother Harry an appropriate bewilderment, while Sarah Vezmar as his clinging girlfriend is an Ada Figgins to the Maggie Hobson Sally might have been if her idealistic lover Larry had survived. Kieran Hill, Foster’s nemesis as Stanley in Bolton’s recent Streetcar Named Desire, captures Larry’s idealism and commitment.
Without him, Sally’s life is degraded as she provides the only help she can for her family. Her free spirit is crushed by the force of money, her hair, features and speech tightened and strained, her free-flowing clothes replaced by a tightly formal suit as she prepares to leave with Grundy.
Less successful is the choric treatment of the neighbours, with their superstition and fecklessness. They are left largely unrestrained here. But it’s Foster whose energetic, detailed, only occasionally over-emphatic performance, most deeply impresses.
Sally Hardcastle: Clare Foster.
Larry Meath: Kieran Hill.
Mrs Hardcastle: Barbara Pierson.
Harry Hardcastle: Sam Lupton.
Hardcastle: David MacCreedy.
Mrs Jike: Annie Tyson.
Mrs Dorbell: Susan Twist.
Mrs Bull: Flo Wilson.
Helen Hawkins: Sarah Vezmar.
Heckler/Sam Grundy/Morris: Colin Connor.
Director: David Thacker.
Designer: Ruari Murchison.
Lighting: Wayne Dowdeswell.
Sound: Andy Smith.
Music consultant: Carol Sloman.
Movement: Lesley Hutchison.
Fight director: Terry King.
Assistant director: Delyth Jones.