Husbands and Sons Review | The Royal Exchange | Manchester
“If you take a woman by her word you deserve what you get.”
Intended as three separate plays, Ben Powers’ melding of D.H Lawrence’s A Collier’s Friday Night, The Daughter-in-Law and The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd, forms the 1911 soap opera Husbands and Sons. The Royal Exchange production allows its round stage to play out the stories of three disloyal households in one room.
The community is made up of the Lamberts family, where the mother's fondness for her accomplished son, over her undereducated mining husband unlocks has the audience question the impact of education on a working class family. Another section contains Mrs. Holroyd, a woman wavering between her marital burdens and her new love. The third family includes a wealthy wife and her desire to liberate her husband from his controlling mother.
The thread connecting the women by suffering and indifference feels somewhat disjointed. The production is unable to delve into the character’s backstories, and there is no time for anything more than basic details. With three separate plays interwoven, the deeper connections and questions you may have for a character are simply unexplored.
The theatre is broken into three rooms to represent the households, but while one is in action, the other is dead. In one instance the child of a wife is left eating invisible food for five minutes as the tales of others unravels around him. It can be just as distracting having the unused families carry out mundane activities as it is to overlap actions of their female counterparts.
Although the performances were solid, with snippets of humour and entertaining dialect throughout, similarly to the women in the play, I had a deep regret. I wished for a richer understanding of their personal struggles, but it was immediately eroded by the merging of these three intimate D.H Lawrence texts.