by Harold Brighouse.
Northern Broadsides Tour to 27 November. 2010.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 30 September at Palace Theatre Watford.
One up to Northern Broadsides.
Two years after Look Back in Anger premiered, in 1956, Harold Brighouse died. Alongside fellow Lancastrians Stanley Houghton and Allan Monkhouse, he had brought northern society on stage long before the ‘Angry’ generation.
The Game (The Beautiful Game it would doubtless be titled today) came in 1914, two years before the more famous Hobson’s Choice. Its predicament is, partly at least, modern. Blackton industrialist Austin Whitworth has been financing the local team. Now at the end of his resources, the only way to pay the bills is to sign its death-warrant by selling star player Jack Metherell.
Jack’s a local idol and Austin’s daughter Elsie is set on marrying him. Jack’s too confident of his prowess on the field to be a Will Mossop, but his caution off it, bowing to parental authority, and Elsie’s contrasting certainty parents need education into the modern age, align the play with the story of Will, Maggie Hobson and her father.
Women are the strong forces in Brighouse; the difference here is that Elsie comes up against a stronger woman in Jack’s mother. Appearing in the final act, she’s a granite block of resolution in Wendi Peters’ performance. Peters is also extremely funny. This is right enough, but not inevitable. The earlier acts have had light moments but are essentially serious, with Austin and his London-based solicitor brother trying to make the newly-sold footballer throw a match against his old side.
Elsie’s last act dilemma could be played with similar seriousness. But director (and Broadsides boss) Barrie Rutter, who’s rescued the script from archival obscurity, has the right to play it this way. And no-one would want to miss Peters’ comic performance.
It’s a good cast generally, with Catherine Kinsella lively and energetic – like her sister Florence, her modern, practical apparel suggests the progressive-thinking, Shavian new woman. In contrast, Phil Rowson gives Jack a still, straight-backed deliberation.
Rutter’s production itself has the deliberate pace of an older style, but while some of the detail of modern acting may be missing, it’s true enough to this style of script, making for away wins all tour.
Edmund Wentworth: John Branwell.
Florence Whitworth: Liz Carney.
Mrs Wilmot: Jo Gerard.
Elsie Whitworth: Catherine Kinsella.
Barnes/Hugh Martin: Roy North.
Mrs Metherell: Wendi Peters.
Jack Metherell: Phil Rowson.
Austin Whitworth: Barrie Rutter.
Dr Wells: Matt Sutton.
Leo Whitworth: Jos Vantyler.
Director: Barrie Rutter.
Designer: Laura Clarkson.
Lighting: Tim Skelly.
Sound: James Earls-Davis.