Welcome to Manchester Confidential
Reset Password
The Confidential websites will be undergoing routine updates. This may cause the sites to go offline. We apologise in advance for any inconvenience.

You are here: Manchester ConfidentialCultureArts.

REVIEW: Hindle Wakes | Bolton Octagon

Joan Davies on a play that aroused a storm of protest in 1912

Written by . Published on March 3rd 2015.

REVIEW: Hindle Wakes | Bolton Octagon

BOLTON’s Octagon and Oldham’s Coliseum Theatres have joined forces to present a revival of the sturdy and once-controversial play, Hindle Wakes, by local playwright Stanley Houghton, a member of the Manchester School, also well known for the highly successful Hobson’s Choice by Harold Brighouse.

Hindle Wakes was first performed at Annie Horniman’s Gaiety Theatre on Peter Street, eliciting a storm of protest, letters to The Times, and an attempt by Oxford’s Vice Chancellor to ban its performance in the city.

Hindle Wakes, first performed in 1912, provides a welcome context for the range of World War 1 dramas. Set in the fictional Lancashire mill town, Hindle, from which nobody travels further than Llandudno and Blackpool, the focus of the respectable folk is respectability.

Bolton’s production is performed fully in the round and the clean but shabbily sparse dining room of the Hawthorn’s terrace provides a fairly depressing start to the evening. It’s quickly lifted by the return of Fanny to her anxiously awaiting parents. Where’s she been? Did she return via Manchester or the more direct route? Fanny’s lies don’t last and her parents discover, to their shame, the truth about her weekend. With a man. In Llandudno. Fanny isn’t shamed though, and that’s even worse. 

To deepen the shame, the man in question is Alan Jeffcote, son of Nathaniel Jeffcote, long-term friend of Fanny’s father Christopher and now a self-made man and mill owner. Christopher will need to have words. 

The remaining scenes cover expected ground, as the parents’ expectations of imminent marriage are presented; and some unexpected ground, as Fanny proves to be the mistress of her own affairs. 

Hindle WakesHindle Wakes

Houghton is a skilled writer. He can do banter. He can do Lancashire dialect. He can do conversations where people hide behind words and where the truth is slowly, and often amusingly, revealed. Is that Lancashire too? 

In a play that centres on a strong-minded woman, the most entertaining scenes are the one-to-one male conversations, particularly between Nathaniel (James Quinn) and Christopher (Russell Richardson), and Nathaniel and Sir Timothy Farrar (Colin Connor), another self-made man.

The higher confidence levels of Sir Timothy and Mr Jeffcote, both have wealth but neither has a wayward daughter, provide James Quinn and Colin Connor plenty of opportunities for genuine laughs without losing sight of the underlying fear that their earlier humble beginnings will expose them to ridicule or even a return to humbler life. As Jeffcote says, ‘It can be three generations from clogs to clogs.’ 

Natasha Davidson has a luminous quality as Fanny Hawthorn. There’s an underlying, growing confidence and quiet enjoyment as she realises the pleasure of taking control of her life.

Hindle Wakes was first performed at Annie Horniman’s Gaiety Theatre on Peter Street, eliciting a storm of protest, letters to The Times, and an attempt by Oxford’s Vice Chancellor to ban its performance in the city. The Lancashire vowels caused a storm too when performed on southern stages.

The Octagon’s David Thacker treats the play with a lightness and a respect for tradition. Plays of this age can appear as merely period pieces. That this does not is due not only to the quality of the writing and acting talent, but also to the directorial approach; occasionally a modern perspective intrudes upon older pieces.

This production succeeds because it is played completely straight, the cast entirely true to their characters. In 1912 women were agitating for the vote, some were pursuing their own careers, some were behaving as if sexual freedom was their right too, and some even wanted all three; there was a mix of motives inhibiting the change, and nobody knew just what awaited them.

Hindle Wakes is at the Octagon Theatre Bolton from Thursday 19 February – Saturday 21 March 2015.

It then tours to The Dukes Lancaster from 24 March – 28 March, and Oldham Coliseum Theatre 16 April – 2 May.

Like what you see? Enter your email to sign up for our newsletters which are chock-a-block with more great reviews, news, deals and savings.

To post this comment, you need to login.Please complete your login information.
Or you can login using Facebook.

Latest Rants

Aadil Khan

I am here for the share this post to enablecookieswindows10.com… and share update…

 Read more

Link below to an MEN article on future plans for the area.…

 Read more

I've always loved this building. Crazy it's been empty for so long when it's next to a major…

 Read more

Offering £12 tickets to people from Manchester earning below £14k doesn't make the MIF less…

 Read more

Explore The Site

© Mark Garner t/a Confidential Direct 2022

Privacy | Careers | Website by: Planet Code | SEO by The eWord