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Posts Tagged ‘Barrie Rutter’

Just over a month after The Orange Tree Theatre’s superb rediscovery of The Stepmother (https://garethjames.wordpress.com/2013/02/16/the-stepmother), The Rose Theatre in Kingston is hosting Northern Broadsides brilliant revival of Githa Sowerby’s only successful play. Well done Surrey!

In his programme note, director Jonathan Miller says he thinks her writing resembles the best of Chekov; well, for me it’s a whole lot better than Chekov – much more dramatic and much more relevant. Her grandfather and father set up and ran a large glassworks in Gateshead, so she must have known this world well. Though Rutherford is an early 20th century northern industrialist, he could be a 21st century entrepreneur or press baron. He’s larger than life and charismatic, oozing power. He’s also a tyrant, a misogynist and a bully.

His wife is dead, his business is struggling and his children are a huge disappointment. He sees son John, returned from London with a wife and son, as unworthy of the family name. Richard, a vicar, is another lost cause. Daughter Janet, a thirty-something spinster, has had to keep home instead of marrying, starting a family and living a life of her own. His favourite employee Martin is better than the lot of them. As the play unfolds, he puts his business before everything and as a result destroys his family.

Relocated from Tyneside to Yorkshire, more to suit the company than anything else, the language becomes as rich as the tale it tells. The story has you in the grip from the start and never let’s go. There’s a realism and naturalism which transcends time and the characters are beautifully drawn. Though it all takes place in one room, it shows you a whole world of the upwardly mobile in the industrialised north. It’s always captivating, sometimes funny, and at times – such as the atitude of bankers to small manufacturing businesses – bang up-to-date!

The play was a revelation 19 years ago at the NT, but this production is even better, largely because it fits Northern Broadsides like a glove – and that’s much more than authentic accents; these actors inhabit their characters like they’re bringing their ancestors alive. Sara Poyser is wonderfully passionate and indignant as Janet. Broadsides regular Richard Standing is outstanding as ‘servant’ (Rutherford’s words) Martin. Kate Anthony plays Rutherford’s sister Ann beautifully, contemptuous of the south and forever sniping at young John’s wife Mary, who in the end is the only one who stands up to Rutherford – another lovely performance from Catherine Kinsella. Towering over all of this is Barrie Rutter’s Rutherord, every inch the industrial tyrant, a simply stunning performance.

The NT had this in its list of the top 100 plays of the 20th century and this production proves that conclusively. A deeply satisfying evening in the theatre.

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