Between the Lines: Miner triumphs: Director Peter Gill on fineness of spirit in the plays of D H Lawrence

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The Independent Culture
'There] Isn't that fine? That's what they can do in France. It's so heavy and full and voluptuous: like oranges falling and rolling a little way along a dark blue carpet; like twilight outside when the lamp's lighted: you get a sense of rich, heavy things, as if you smelt them, and felt them about you in the dusk: isn't it?'

Ernest in A Collier's Friday Night by D H Lawrence

Recent events have reminded me of Lawrence's plays, which I did at the Royal Court in the Sixties. A Collier's Friday Night was the first play I directed and it comes back vividly to me. What I really love about it is Lawrence's ability to express fineness of spirit (in the quotation, the young miner Ernest is talking to his girlfriend about a poem by Baudelaire). It is quite surprising because in other respects the play appears to be what is now called 'neo-realism'. Lawrence was pointing to the fact that these working men were having their feelings crushed - and what is so upsetting is that what is happening now in the coalfields brings all that back. Lawrence's plays were very important to me - he was involved in the struggle to get 'ordinary people' to be the heroes of their own lives in plays. Theatre now seems to be run by public schoolboys who are still wearing Eighties suits. And there is one other reason why the play is so important - Ernest was played by Victor Henry, who died tragically young. I can still hear him saying these lines.

Peter Gill's production of Congreve's 'The Way of the World' has just opened at the Lyric, Hammersmith, London W6 (081-741 2311).

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