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sisdaughter_2500508bUsually it’s the mother-in-law who gets it in the neck, here it’s the daughter-in-law very much in the in the firing line. Minnie Gascoyne gets a great (and long) build up before we meet her, as her new-ish husband and his mother lay into her in the kitchen, only to be interrupted by the news that he’s got another woman pregnant. It’s pretty steamy stuff for 1912, but DH Lawrence treats it all pretty matter-of-fact, melodrama and hyperbole cast aside for plain speaking and clear facts. Minnie and Luther’s marital dilemma and her headstrong, businesslike approach to finding a solution make her feel like something of a missing theatrical link – Nora slammed that door only twenty years perviously, Eliza was learning to talk proper at the same time, Amanda and Elyot’s unholy approach to matrimony was barely eighteen years away, and pretty soon Alison and Jimmy would be battling it out over the ironing board. Paul Miller‘s detailed and always clear production makes the best possible case for the play and for the somewhat uneasy conclusion that brings the couple to a curious reunion. According to DHL, overprotective mothers are the main problem, but it is interesting that he also shows that specific social issues – fair pay, sickness allowance and strikes – have a direct affect on domestic and romantic relationships. In a startling image, the unwashed miner kisses his wife with a ‘red mouth’ leering out of his blackened face, and, as you’d expect, DHL places the couple’s sexuality at the heart of their relationship; the sequence where he silently washes his coal-stained body in front of his wife brings a further frisson. Claire Price is a quietly determined heroine, her tears for the broken crockery speaking volumes about her and many other women’s plight, and Philip McGinley as her husband manages to engage us with a character crippled by lethargy. A pleasure to discover this play at last.

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