Husbands and Sons review at the National Theatre – ‘potent’
For their merging of three of DH Lawrence’s plays, A Collier’s Friday Night, The Daughter-in-Law and The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd, Ben Power and Marianne Elliott have built a world within the Dorfman – or, rather, a village: Lawrence’s Eastwood, the place that made him.
Designer Bunny Christie has mapped out three households on the stage floor, which are home to three families – the Gascoignes, the Lamberts and the Holyroyds. The men come home from the pit each night black with dirt and ravenous while the women strive and yearn and try and make the best of their lot. There’s a rich seam of detail to Elliot’s production, in the way it carefully shades in all the various relationships, parental and marital, via the choreography of the kitchen table. The pit is also a constant presence, an ominous glow under their feet, like some great beast beneath.
It’s very much an ensemble production and there are strong performances all round, but it’s the three wives who really stand out; as played by Louise Brealey, Anne-Marie Duff, and Julia Ford, they reflect each other in their frustration, their conflicted feelings for the men to whom they are tethered, resentment diluted, to varying degrees, with tenderness. Duff is anguished and desperate in her misery, while Ford is unquietly resigned – all three are compelling. Over the course of 3 hours it can feel a bit grinding, but it’s never less than engaging, and underscoring everything there is this unshakeable sense that this way of life, for all its attendant hardships, will soon be obliterated.
We need your help…
When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.
The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.
We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.
Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.