Tag Archives: Anne-Marie Duff

Husbands & Sons

husbands and sonsSome days just come together, don’t they? I wasn’t thinking of doing anything terribly interesting today, but my housemate suggested trying for last minute tickets for The Winter’s Tale. I was going to say no thanks, but I struggle to say no to Shakespeare at the best of times, and I thought it was a good idea to get off my great lumbering arse. As she was queuing, though, she changed her mind and asked if I’d like to see Husbands & Sons instead. I’d not heard of the show, and knew nothing about it. So of course I said yes. And right glad I am that I did, too!

Husbands & Sons creates a deeply engrossing story by interweaving three of D.H.Lawrence’s plays. The Widowing of Mrs HolroydA Collier’s Friday Night, and The Daughter-in-Law sit splendidly side-by-side, woven together delicately by Ben Power. I’m not sure I’d have bothered to make the effort if my housemate hadn’t suggested it. Three plays simultaneously just sounds like asking for trouble! But the skillful manner in which these three have been brought together is quite remarkable.

The action shifts, often distractingly, between the three spaces that have been created, three collier’s houses in a northern English village, as it were. And while the characters hear each other, they interact little until the latter part of the play. Their stories, while separate, are far from independent, though. Power has carefully brought the themes of the plays together, so that the stories complement and enhance one another.

Bunny Christie’s design is remarkable, in that it appears, at first glance to be predictable. It reflects the Kitchen Sink style D.H.Lawrence’s scripts were ultimately categorised with, until the play begins. Projections cast an industrial shadow over domestic imagery, and the four-sided performance space of the Dorfman Theatre oozes atmospheres domestic and industrial, damp and cold, tense and cosy throughout the lengthy passage of the play’s action.

Lengthy though it may be, this production is far from a labour. We were lucky enough to find ourselves upstairs, at the rear of the auditorium high above the stage. I was able to sit back or forward, and even to stand when the mood took me. This position truly added to the experience, which was engaging enough as it was, thanks also to a brilliant cast that had benefited from impeccable direction by Marianne Elliott.

There are so many things to love about this play, but the highest praise I can offer is that it was one of those theatrical experiences where, walking outside afterwards feels like stepping into a duller, less real reality. This is the reason theatre remains so vital, so visceral, experiences like this. Even the glorious dusk light over the Thames, shining brilliantly on St. Paul’s, seemed dun in comparison to the vibrant humanity of the stories I’d just been through.

Perfect theatre. Simply perfect.


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suffragetteSuffragette is the story of a fictional woman in early twentieth century London, who becomes involved with the Suffragette movement to enfranchise women in the United Kingdom. Maud Watts is an ordinary mother, working in a laundry to help make ends meet. We see the journey she takes as she goes from merely supporting suffrage, to actively and militantly campaigning for it.

This technique of using someone who becomes involved in a movement to illustrate how people interacted through history is one I appreciate. I think it provides a view of history that is easier to relate to, and is possibly more accurate as it doesn’t present history merely through the eyes of leaders.

In this instance, the ploy is largely successful. It is easy to empathise with Maud, especially as her son is taken away from her. But it is this element of the plot that somehow gets lost along the way. One minute she is a mother, and the next she is just a suffragette, and her son is neither seen nor mentioned again.

From a feminist perspective, perhaps there is nothing wrong with this. But the purpose of creating this fictional character as a lens through which to view history is to humanise the story. The tragedy of losing such a precious relationship could not be understated, and its impact on the protagonist should not have been overlooked. It is at this point that the film goes from being brilliant to being somewhat clinical, and having the feeling of a docudrama, rather than a film.

The dialogue, nonetheless, is brilliant throughout, and demonstrates an impeccable skill. Carey Mulligan’s performance as Maud is professional and engaging.

I just wish the writer, Abi Morgan, had stuck more doggedly to her initial approach.

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Posted by on Wednesday, 21 October 2015 in BFI, British Film, Film, Film4, Pathe


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