Despite being renowned for his novels, D.H. Lawrence’s plays have been surprisingly overlooked until fairly recently. Arguably, his paintings and literary criticism have received more critical praise and generated wider public awareness than his theatrical works. However, even though never produced in his lifetime, his first play The Daughter-in-Law has gone on to be heralded as a great work and a forerunner to kitchen sink dramas.
The Daughter-in-Law is clash of cultures and of social class. Set in a Derbyshire mining town in 1912, it focuses on the matriarchal head of a family and two of her sons Luther and Joe; both of whom work in the pits. The titular daughter-in-law is Minnie, Luther’s new wife. Minnie, a former governess, has progressive ideas, whilst Luther seems to be happy to trudge through life.
D.H. Lawrence drew heavily on his childhood for this play, being the son of a miner and a pupil teacher, and growing up in the coal mining town of Eastwood in Nottinghamshire. It takes some adjustment to get used to the dialect of The Daughter-in-Law, but the contrast with Minnie’s middle-class alliteration is striking.
As always, the quality of the sets and lighting in the Crucible is superb, and the casting is perfect; doing the source material justice. Whilst Lawrence’s play is a drama, it is laced with black humour and coalface wit. Lynda Baron is particularly impressive as the matriarchal Ms Gascoyne; both indomitable and deeply protective of her sons.
Daughter-in-Law continues at the Crucible until 23rd March