Another look at nowt: The Daughter-In-Law @arcolatheatre

Last May the Arcola Theatre presented The Daughter-In-Law in it’s downstairs space. Now is the chance to revisit this piece in its larger theatre. And it’s great to have another look at this simple tale and evocative production about lives against the backdrop of the 1912 miner’s strike. 

Transferring from the intimate downstairs space gives the production a bigger audience and a bigger space to work with. And while it loses some of the intense claustrophobia of the smaller space it also seemed funnier. And more shocking. With it’s local dialect and intense relationships you soon find yourself drawn into the life of this Nottinghamshire mining town. 

DH Lawrence’s drama, written in 1913, is set a world where money and family are your means for survival. Mrs Gascoyne (Veronica Roberts) has two sons who are still in her orbit. The youngest Joe (Matthew Biddulph) is carefree and careless living at home. The other Luther (Matthew Barker) has just married. 

But the marriage seems to be an ambivalent one. The daughter-in-law, Minnie (Ellie Nunn) has inherited a small fortune and is setting up a fine home. A fine home full of fine china, tablecloths and antique furniture. But what she doesn’t have is her husband’s love. And he has a wife who couldn’t find anyone better. 

But its Luther’s relationship with another woman before their marriage that sets in train a series of events. Soon money, economic circumstance and class conspire against them.

Minnie is a terrific part that feels both modern yet trapped in the her life and time. Ellie Nunn expertly realises the character with humour and anguish. She’s simultaneously a breath of fresh air and a hurricane. 

In the larger space Roberts as the dominating mother gets to dominate the space. And Tessa Bell-Briggs seems even more practical as Mrs Purdy. She seeks compensation of £40 for Luther’s relationship with her daughter.

Louie Whitemore’s design evokes life in a miner’s cottage without being too overbearing. Geoff Hense’s lighting is subtle and beautiful. 

Fringe theatre at its best. Here’s hoping that this is not the last we see of this Daughter-In-Law. Directed by Jack Gamble, The Daughter-In-Law is at the Arcola Theatre until 2 February.


Photos by Idil Sukan

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