"fascinating insight into the past"
by Aline Waites for remotegoat on 01/06/18

Lawrence is probably the most poplar writer of working class characters. Born in Eastwood, near Nottingham he was the son of a collier and this is the first play he wrote with a coal-mining background.

The most powerful characters in this play are the females. The mother, played by Veronica Roberts is a domineering woman who takes care of her sons, washing and cleaning for them and removing from them any opportunity to take on responsibility for their own lives. Her son Luther has a somewhat toxic marriage with Minnie an upwardly mobile young woman who has money of her own. These two women are at war from the beginning and this reflects heavily on the disposition of Luther who is still firmly tied to his mother’s apron strings even though he has managed to get his ex girl friend, Bertha, pregnant. A circumstance revealed by the girl’s mother, Mrs Purdy (Tessa Bell-Briggs) and the conversation between the two older women is what starts the play.

Minnie is a tough lady. She has furnished her home in second hand furniture and made it beautiful – much to her Mother in Law’s disgust. Ellie Nunn plays Minnie – probably much too pretty for the role, but she handles it brilliantly. She is a modern woman – a girl of independence – totally at odds with the colliery people.

And it shows how important marriage was in that tight knit community. People were expected to marry each other and stay married for ever. The men have their good times down the mine laughing and joking with each other, while the women are expected to look after the house and the finances. Minnie is determined not to give in to this kind of life. She has no desire to spend her life just looking after him, doing things that he could easily perform himself. He resents her independence. The story shows clearly the lack of equality between the two of them. When she learns of Bertha’s pregnancy she offers to pay the ‘hush money’ required to keep the villagers mouths shut. He refuses to let her do this. Harry Hepple is perfectly cast in the role of the sulky and ineffectual Luther. His bother Joe, who is much more lively and tries to help the couple solve their problems is Mathew Biddulph.

The set is in the round and is suitably scattered with the kind of clay mugs and things suitable for this family’s station in life. When we go to Minnie’s house we see that she has plates and dishes made of china.

It is when Minnie actually attacks her Mother in Law that the play reaches its pinnacle. Minnie would like to be an equal with her husband, not his slave, but Mother has asserted her prominence by forging a chain that seems impossible to break.

Fascinating insight into the kind of life that no longer exists.

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