THE WIDOWING OF MRS HOLROYD
by D H Lawrence.
New Vic Theatre Etruria Road ST5 0JG To 13 October 2012.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat 13 Oct 2.15pm.
Audio-described 13 Oct 2.15pm.
Runs 1hr 45min One interval.
TICKETS: 01782 717962.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 10 October.
Isolation rather than community in rare Lawrence revival.
It took almost forty years from D H Lawrence’s death in 1930 for his plays to be rediscovered for the British stage. Peter Gill’s revival of three Lawrence dramas infusing his tragic passion into stories of the Nottinghamshire mining communities he’d grown up among led to repeated productions especially of The Daughter-in-Law, with both A Collier’s Friday Night and, even more, The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd some way behind.
Lizzie Holroyd is stuck in marriage with a husband who’s drunk and loutish. Her nature finds a response from another mine-worker. But Blackmore is an electrician, a grade or two up on Holroyd’s coal-hewer. His sensitivity’s seen near the start. While Holroyd destroys things, Blackmore uses his skill to replace a broken lamp-glass. And when Lizzie offers a clean towel, he‘s aware of how dirt’s already clung to him, in a way that wouldn’t bother Holroyd or most of his companions.
Pride and decency mix in Lizzie Holroyd and the passion between her and Blackmore soon finds expression. They have to pick the drunk Holroyd off the floor, while Blackmore eventually beats him in a fight owing to Holroyd’s state.
It’s only when it’s too late, and he’s no longer a threat, that she finds affection for her husband returning. And the possibility of elopement disappearing, partly through the tight-knit community. Blackmore’s frequent visits have been noticed.
More sense of this would have been welcome in Fiona Buffini’s production. Designer James Cotterill isolates the Holroyd house on a kind of cement mound, losing the back-to-back or terrace closeness. And characters shout, the (non-existent) door sometimes presumably open, in a way that would have had mouths clacking along the street.
Greater variety of tone would also help. Emotions seem pre-decided, denuding the main characters of processes and shifting detail in their relationships. At least the two Holroyd children with their innocent, question-laden intrusions around a small home where they don’t realise there are secret emotions give one dimension of this.
Performances tend to be limited by this overall approach, though Joanna Croll conveys the mixture of pride and decency which drive Lizzie.
Manager: Ray Castleton.
Mrs Holroyd: Joanna Croll.
Mr Holroyd: Matthew Douglas.
Mr Blackmore: Oliver Farnworth.
Laura/Grandmother: Francesca Ryan.
Mr Bigley: Matthew Wilson.
Clara: Claire Wyatt.
Minnie Holroyd: Sofia Bond/Lucy Kerr.
Jack Holroyd: Taylor Collier/Oliver Pritchard Jones.
Miners: Matthew Jones, Adam Sutton.
Director: Fiona Buffini.
Designer: James Cotterill.
Lighting: Daniella Beattie.
Sound: James Earls-Davis.
Dialect coach: Anne Walsh.
Fight director: Philip d’Orléans.
Assistant director: Joe Mellor.