The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd: DH Lawrence
Orange Tree Theatre,
1 Clarence Street,
Surrey TW9 2SA
Eves 7.30pm; Tues & Thurs mat 2.30pm
Audio described perfs: Tue 16 Sep 7.30pm; Sat 20 Sep 2.30pm
Post-show discussions: Thurs 18 Sep 2.30pm, Tues 23 Sept 7.30pm
Runs: 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 020 8940 3633.
Review: Carole Woddis 5 September.
It’s the beginning of a new era for the Orange Tree, the little theatre-in-the-round founded by Sam Walters in 1971. After four decades, Walters has been succeeded by Paul Miller, late of Sheffield Theatres and previously an Associate at the Bush Theatre. On the day Miller took over, the Arts Council announced they were cutting their entire funding to the theatre.
Not the most helpful of welcomes for any incoming new artistic director. Yet Miller has a promising-looking year mixing classics and new work, kicking-off with this hardy but not often seen D H Lawrence slice of working-class Edwardian social realism.
Lawrence had something of a renaissance as a dramatist thanks largely to the Royal Court trilogy directed by Peter Gill in the late 1960s, including Widowing along with A Collier’s Night Out and The Daughter-in-Law.
Seeing it now, close-up, at the Orange Tree, what strikes most forcibly is Lawrence’s psychological perception of inner desire and how it is transmitted in a working-class context where respectability is the ultimate, strait-jacketing arbiter of behaviour.
There are shades of Lady Chatterley here in the implied class distinction between the hard-working, proud Mrs Holroyd, fastidious in her domestic cleanliness and her quintessentially bovine, inarticulate and alcoholic miner husband, Charlie. What however makes Widowing come-up as fresh as Lizzie’s newly ironed sheets are the conversations of strangulated desire and clenched duty exchanged between Lizzie and her admirer, Blackmore, and Lizzie and Charlie’s fierce, unrelenting mother.
Miller can’t always quite disguise some of the cruder aspects of Lawrence’s portrait but in Ellie Piercy’s superbly drawn Lizzie, Jordan Misfúd’s Blackmore and Polly Hemingway’s mother as she lays out her son, you can hear the authentic ring of convention being torn apart and, in the second, a heartrending lament to lost sons and maternal stoicism echoing J M Synge’s Riders to the Sea and Sean O’Casey’s mother mourning the loss of her son to civil war in Juno and the Paycock.
Written in 1914, Widowing serves as a poignantly apt revival in this centenary year and hopefully, an auspicious start to Miller’s time in Richmond.
Mrs Holroyd: Ellie Piercy.
Blackmore: Jordan Misfúd.
Jack Holroyd: Joel Davison/Will Devey.
Minnie Holroyd: Olive Bown/Jasmine Procter-Tarabanov.
Clara: Heather Johnson.
Laura: Maggie O’Brien.
Holroyd: Gyuri Sarossy.
Grandmother: Polly Hemingway.
Rigley: Jamie Satterthwaite.
Manager: David Whitworth.
Joe: Mitchell Turner.
Bob: Harry Flanagan.
Director: Paul Miller.
Designer: Simon Daw.
Lighting: John Harris.
Composer: Terry Davies.
Voice coach: Mark Langley.
Fight director: Philip D’Orléans.
Assistant director: Rania Jumaily.
Assistant designer: Katy Mills
First performance of this production of The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd at the Orange Tree Theatre, London 3 September 2014.