Wednesday, November 11, 2015


National Theatre at the Dorfman
It's easy to parody the kind of gloomy Black Country working-class angst that makes up Lawrence's three plays from a century ago.
Here, they are interwoven ingeniously by Ben Power, played out in three houses packed in to the Dorfman stage, and delineated by architect plans. This geometrical design, and the floor projections, recall other work in this space, also directed by Marianne Elliott.
The coal mine is a constant presence, with rumblings and light from beneath. Women are routinely abused by black-dusted brutes, bread is burned, crockery broken, pricey prints consigned to the fire. The design [by Bunny Christie] is wonderfully evocative, and there are countless memorable stage pictures, notably the three wives standing on the tables of the three houses as the menfolk march through to the pit.
Superb acting all round, though the dialect does prove a challenge at times. Despite the title, this is really about the womenfolk – Lawrence himself appears in the guise of bookish Ernest [Johnny Gibbon]. The action is centred around the kitchens and sculleries [with an effective mix of mime and props as fires are stoked, kettles filled, pots washed]. Anne-Marie Duff is Lizzie Holroyd, trapped in a violent marriage to alcoholic Charlie [Martin Marquez]. Louise Brealy is newly-wed Minnie, Susan Brown excellent as her meddling matriarch of a mother-in-law.

It’s risky work, handlin’ men, my lass. For when a woman builds ’er life on men, either ’usbands or sons, she builds on summat as sooner or later brings the ’ouse down crash on ’er head – yi, she does.

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