Husbands and Sons

Theatre, Drama
Recommended
4 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Anne-Marie Duff stars as Lizzie Holroyd in this adaptation of three DH Lawrence dramas.

DH Lawrence is best known for his banned novel 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' and its subversive brand of under-the-counter 1920s filth. But the only sexy thing about his little known 1911-13 dramas of Nottinghamshire industrial misery is director Marianne Elliott's darkly gorgeous staging: its cast of impoverished, desperate miners and their mistreated wives certainly aren't getting any.

Ben Power's strong-armed adaptation has pounded three of Lawrence's plays into a single drama, uniting their characters for key moments of crisis: a wild drunken night; a strike; a mining disaster. Bunny Christie's wonderfully lucid set design makes the text's heritage a physical reality in a set that's laid out like a life-size Cluedo board: three rooms in outline, labelled with their family's surname and full of hints that point to the state of their marriage, as well as their kitchen.

The lacy tablecloth and ornate wooden furniture of newlywed Minnie Gascoigne's house are a clue to her frustrated dreams of tea at six, as she pours her whole life into a husband who's sunk in drinking. Next door, Walter Lambert is maddened by his children's escape into books and love affairs as his wife masterminds their careers. And Anne-Marie Duff plays Lizzie Holroyd, the wife of violent alcoholic, with fevered intensity, snatching hungry glances at the kind-hearted electrician who brings him home from his nights on the tiles.

This play might as well be named 'Mothers and Daughters' as 'Husbands and Sons': a succession of matriarchs rule the roost as their menfolk pass out, covered in coal-dust, on kitchen tables. Lawrence's dramas are Oedipal, weird, riven with tensions as the Nottinghamshire countryside is riddled with mines. Elliott's brilliantly original approach brings out their black, glimmering intensity, showing us a coal-pit whose century-old horrors can still raise a shudder. 

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