“He cares more for your little finger than he does for any other woman”- Minnie Gascoigne
‘Husbands and Sons’ interweaves three of D.H Lawrence’s most acclaimed dramas – ‘A Colliers Friday Night’, ‘The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd’ and ‘The Daughter in Law’.
The play, which is set on the fractured border of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire in the village of Eastwood, presents the now-perished world in which Lawrence was raised: a community built on manual labour, working class labour and ferocious tenderness.
Before the play even begins, the stage set suggests a lot about the confined world of the characters, who are living in the Edwardian age. Everyday items such as an umbrella, candles and sets of crockery own the stage in an immensely sterile and mundane fashion. The stiff and rigid Edwardian society that informs this play was also highlighted through the use of dreary and bland colours, such as brown, black and beige.
Marianne Elliott’s scantily set stage contains objects that are symbolic of a listless and oppressing existence. Lizzie Holroyd’s rocking chair, for example, symbolises the notion that the she and her fellow habitants are shifting back and forth in an entrapping, dirty and paralysing state of affairs. Elliot also incorporates symbols of hope within the play in the form of Ernest Lambert and Joe Gascoigne.
Ernest’s formal attire of a shirt, a waistcoat and trousers signifies sophistication and integrity, as does his passion for beauty and creative writing, whilst Joe maintains a detachment from marriage and dreams of moving to Australia. However in order for the hopeful Joe and Ernest to prosper they must have the support of their mothers, who possess an inherent air of jealousy and cynicism.
Adapter Ben Power has done a superb job of decoding D.H Lawrence’s works and then overlaying them. As a result we get an overriding sense of one unified and suffocating working class community, in which everyone is susceptible to psychological pressure through a lack of privacy and an abundance of nosiness.
As a dissatisfied wife-turned-widow, Anne Marie Duff’s performance as Lizzie Holroyd was intimate and buoyant. At times you could almost see the blood surging through her skin, as she negotiates a husband with limited parental responsibility and a man who quite regularly falls into a drunken daze. Lizzie Holroyd’s agonising despair is encapsulated within the consistently frail body language and defenseless facial expressions of Anne Marie Duff.
The play presents an alternate continuity of snippets from the Holroyd, Lambert and Gascoigne family therefore at times the narrative lacks fluency and clarity. However the absence of a concise and concentrated narration subtly reinforces the fact that the characters are immersed in a restrictive and strenuous society.
As the play commences and concludes the loud and intruding sound of a steam train gradually fills the auditorium, ultimately indicating the importance of mining and the authoritative presence of masculinity.
Throughout the play the damned lives of Lizzie Holroyd, Lydia Lambert and Minnie Gascoigne are examined through the specificity of unyielding gender roles and by their strife-ridden romantic ties. For example the domesticated women’s partners perceive their other halves as commodities within the home, as the men evidently leave their souls and minds at the life-absorbing Brinsley pit.
This is emphasised when Mr. Lambert first returns home from work before abrasively exclaiming “Haven’t you got a drink for me? Stop your giggling, you monkeys”. Consequently, the women are left desiring adoration, care and affection in the face of adversity.
TNT Arts & Culture Billy Rooney