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Rutherford and Son review at Royal Exchange Theatre

Loyalty, betrayal and filial ingratitude are all examined in Githa Sowerby’s powerful observation of industrial society in Britain in 1912. Sarah Frankcom’s welcome revival of this rarely performed work affords a glimmer of the exciting aftermath of the industrial revolution, when new money spawned a new class system and the evolving women’s suffrage movement posed questions about the repercussions facing women who made a stand.

Set in the north east home of Rutherford, the autocratic owner of a glass factory, it was written out of bitter, personal experience by Sowerby, whose own family owned a glassworks and it smacks of authenticity.

Maurice Roeves is ideal casting as the domineering Rutherford. It’s a marathon role, which veers from towering rage to quiet, steely manipulation and he handles the contrasts – if not the accent – adroitly.

Rutherford’s children are less enamoured of his rule of iron than his workers and Maxine Peake is particularly strong as Janet, his rebellious daughter who is at her best when faced with the dilemma of how to cope after the grand gesture and there’s a sound performance from Antony Byrne as her beloved Martin.

Daniel Brocklebank is John Rutherford, who has to escape to survive, while there’s a quiet strength in Christine Bottomley’s performance as his wife Mary. It is a great pity that the lack of convincing accents marred an otherwise fine production with sterling performances.

Production Information

Royal Exchange Theatre, January 19-February 19

Githa Sowerby
Sarah Frankcom
Royal Exchange
Cast includes
Maurice Roeves, Maxine Peake, Antony Byrne, Daniel Brocklebank, Christine Bottomley
Running Time
2hrs 50 mins

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