Rutherford & Son, Viaduct Theatre, Halifax
Going into the family business has always been a path fraught with peril. To the uncharitable outside observer success is served up on a plate whilst failure – even mediocrity - is seen as some kind of comeuppance for having an unfair advantage.
Sir Jonathan Miller, director of this revival of Githa Sowerby’s 1912 melodrama, initially followed his father – an acclaimed paediatric psychiatrist – into medicine, before pursuing his mother into the world of high culture.
In the intervening half century Sir Jonathan has escaped any suggestions of nepotism to blaze an extraordinary path between science and the arts becoming Britain’s most readily recognisable intellectual.
His decision to accept this offer from Northern Broadside marks his first directorial commission for six years and has generated considerable excitement here up north. At 78 his work continues to demand – and get – national media attention.
Surprisingly perhaps, the former Beyond the Fringe star has said he was unaware of Sowerby’s tale of dynastic breakdown and industrial decline, although he cannot have been alone in that.
Although considered a devastating critique of capitalism at the time it was written, it has been infrequently revived, outdated even, yet would also seem to offer ideal material for a new treatment by Barrie Rutter’s always enjoyable company which has built a fine reputation based on its vernacular Shakespeare and other delights.
Yet even set in the atmospheric bowels of Dean Clough, once the world’s largest carpet factory and now an arts centre and cooking school, this erred too often on the side of dreariness rather than daring. Miller is said to have demonstrated an incredibly light touch in his directorial duties – trusting the actors to feel their way through the script which in this case was reworked by Blake Morrison whose previous collaboration with Northern Broadsides (We Are Three Sisters) was a real triumph.
But at times this seemed to really drag with lengthy, spirit-crushing speeches ringing out into the dank brickwork. The actors themselves offered up some excellent performances particularly Sara Poyzer as Janet, the tyrannical Rutherford’s daughter-cum-servant, and Nicholas Shaw as John the thwarted ineffectual heir to the declining glassworks fortune.
Rutter fizzed with furious disappointment as the pathologically single-minded industrialist whilst Kate Anthony was a real gem as his joyless sister Ann. But for all their good work the actors did they struggled to rescue the evening which at times felt as arduous as toiling at the furnaces of Rutherford’s itself.
Viaduct Theatre, Halifax until 16 February and then touring to 1 June
By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work
Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar
What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?
Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings
The actor has confessed to his own insecurities
Allotments are the focus of a new reality show
Arts & Ents blogs
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
US Navy christens huge $3 billion destroyer ship USS Zumwalt that appears as a fishing boat on enemy radar
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage on Have I Got News For You: Ukip leader ridiculed over expenses and party 'fruitcakes'
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
- 1 Poveglia: 'World's most haunted island' up for auction...is anyone brave enough to buy it?
- 2 Big Bang Theory to get special Star Wars episode with help from Lucasfilm
- 3 Pharrell Williams 'Happy': British Muslims dance to song in video
- 4 24 people applied for the 'world's toughest job', here are their interviews
- 5 Scientists warn we've hit 'peak beard': The more people grow facial hair, the less attractive it is