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The Daughter-In-Law At The Library Theatre

Kevin Bourke interviews director Chris Honer and actress Diane Fletcher

Published on March 1st 2012.


The Daughter-In-Law At The Library Theatre

DH LAWRENCE is, indisputably, one of the giants of Twentieth Century literature. But that reputation is based on his novels and his poetry. So when the phrase 'rarely seen' is to be found in the publicity for The Daughter-In-Law, the Library Theatre Company's production of his play - yes, play - then some of us tend to get a little suspicious.

"We thought this would be really good for Manchester audiences to see and I've been wanting to do it for years."

Unfairly so, insists Chris Honer, the play's director and the LTC's Artistic Director. He's been an ardent fan of The Daughter-In-Law since its rediscovery in the Sixties and, having tried for years to add it to the Library's canon, is overjoyed that it has finally made it from "every season's longlist" into production.

 

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"He was very unlucky not to be produced significantly in his lifetime," Chris believes, "and that's why he's rarely performed, or at least not really seen as being in the mainstream. The other thing is that there wasn't really a tradition of drama about the working classes in this country until the Sixties which, significantly, is actually when his plays were discovered.

The Royal Court did a season of A Collier's Friday Night, The Daughter-In-Law and The Widowing Of Mrs. Holroyd in the wake of Look Back In Anger and that whole movement, plays which had brought so much more of the world into the theatre than had been the case in the Thirties, Forties and Fifties. I first came across his playwriting myself when I was a student and saw A Collier's Friday Night at the Royal Court.

"There are about half a dozen plays, I later found out, and one or two of them I'd honestly say 'don't go there'," he laughs.

"But the three major ones, written when he was in his mid to late twenties, at around about the time of Sons And Lovers, I certainly think are terrific plays. He could do it and if he had found a producer who would put his plays on then I think he might well have written a lot more and not focussed so much on the novels and poetry."

The play is set in 1912 against the backdrop of a bitter miners’ strike. Luther Gascoigne, a Nottinghamshire miner, and socially ambitious Minnie have been married for just six weeks, but Luther’s mother disapproves. In her view Minnie’s pretensions make her an unsuitable match for her son. When an explosive revelation from Luther’s past is unexpectedly revealed, it threatens to derail the married couple’s new life together.

"It smells real," he enthuses, "because that's where he came from and that's how people were. It's set very specifically around the time of the 1912 Miner's Strike, which was a long struggle to get a wage for the day or the hour rather than getting paid less because you happened to be unlucky enough to be working a poor seam."

 

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Taking the roles of Luther is Alun Raglan, who starred in the LTC’s award-winning production of Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me and is familiar to TV viewers from the hit drama At Home With the Braithwaites, with Wigan-born Natalie Grady as Minnie. She was a member of the National Theatre cast of Rafta Rafta and returns to the LTC after her appearance as Gwendolen Fairfax in The Importance of Being Earnest, the company’s final production at its former home, Manchester Central Library.

Meanwhile, one of Britain’s most distinguished actors, Diane Fletcher, plays Mrs Gascoigne. She has the distinction of having appeared in a production of Lawrence's 1914 play The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd at Nottingham Playhouse in 1975, amongst a host of credits in theatres around the country and in the West End over the past 40 years. She also featured in Roman Polanski’s film version of Macbeth, and has appeared in a number of classic TV dramas, notably House of Cards.

"I've been in two Lawrence plays in fact, including this one," she points out. "But when I did it before, a long time ago, I was Minnie. Now I'm an older actress, I get to play the mothers!"

Like Chris she fondly recalls seeing those initial "rediscovered" productions.

"I was just coming out of drama school when I saw them at the Royal Court, but I can remember them vividly. I really do think it's a terribly clever piece and so well observed, even though he was a very young man when he wrote it. You can tell he'd heard that accent and really knew how those people talked and thought."

"We wanted to find a play that was a modern classic but not such an obvious one that everyone already knew it," agrees Chris. "We thought this would be really good for Manchester audiences to see and I've been wanting to do it for years."

The Daughter-In-Law from the Library Theatre Company is at The Lowry from Thursday 23 February until Saturday 10 March 2012. Accompanying the production is No! Mr Lawrence!, an intimate performance of a selection of poems by DH Lawrence, which will be directed by Josh Azouz, assistant director of The Daughter-in-Law, and performed by members of the cast on the set of The Daughter-in-Law. There will performances on Tuesday 6, Wednesday 7, and Friday 9 March at 6pm and 6.15pm. Tickets are free for The Daughter-In-Law ticket-holders but must be booked in advance.

These pictures are by Gerry Murray.

 

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