Arcola Theatre, London – until 2 February 2019
Jack Gamble’s razor sharp production highlights one family’s inner tensions brilliantly.
It is said that the first year of a marriage is perhaps the hardest as you adapt to being together every day – but in some cases it is more like the first seven weeks are the hardest as D.H. Lawrence’s powerful family drama proves.
Newly weds Minnie and Luther Gasgcoyne are struggling to adapt to married life – a relationship that is constantly in the delicate state of awkwardness and downright hostile. But when Luther’s mother Mrs Gascoyne discovers an explosive secret about her son, everything that everyone thinks they know comes crashing down on their heads in numerous conflicts.
Set on a simple and rustic stage, Jack Gamble’s razor sharp production captures the pure rawness and flaws of each of the characters created by Lawrence to vivid effect. The simpleness of Louie Whitemore’s set design allows the audience to feel as though they are in the same room with all of the characters as they confront each other about their failings and flaws.
The production also makes the most of Lawrence’s script, allowing the tension beautifully – particularly highlighted in the confrontation between Minnie and Luther that while is perhaps visually the softest moment, it is in fact one of the most brutal parts emotionally in the show. The soft and gentle lighting used by Geoff Hense really highlights just how raw both characters are feeling by this point.
But it is also down to the complex and powerful performances from the cast that reveal just how complicated relationships with our own families can be. Veronica Roberts as the opinionated and domineering Mrs Gascoyne is engaging and enjoyable to watch as she fiercely tries to protect her family (particularly her sons) in her own unique way. Elsewhere, Ellie Nunn is brilliantly spirited as Minnie, refusing to go down without a fight and never afraid to speak her mind it is a performance that is mesmerising to watch.
In particular the way in which she scathingly speaks to Luther to hide her vulnerability and loneliness is heartbreaking to see. Matthew Barker as Luther has glimpses of pride and vindictiveness about him, yet at the same time he won’t stand up for himself against his mother. It is a richly complex and intriguing performance that merges well with the other performances.
This is a striking and powerful production filled with performances that are delivered with real grit and passion – highly recommended.
By Emma Clarendon
The Daughter-in-law continues to play at the Arcola Theatre until the 2nd February.