23 March 2013

Rutherford & Son at the Rose

There were some very obvious reasons for going to see Rutherford & Son at the Rose. The play came with the cachet of a Jonathan Miller director's credit and a raft of good reviews plus I am trying to support the Rose at is one of my most local theatres.

It was a sheer coincidence, and a bonus, that it was written by Githa Sowerby (1912) who also wrote The Stepmother (1924), which I saw at the Orange Tree recently.

I tried a Circle seat this time. That was fine for watching the play but the view over the stalls just reinforced how silly the pit area is.

Rutherford & Son is a northern industrial business. The second Rutherford is now running it and is planning its succession on his approaching retirement. He has three adult children, a son who is a priest, a daughter who is sitting firmly on the shelf and another son who is both useless and has married below his station.

At the time of the story the whole family are back in the family house, though for different reasons. Rutherford rules his family firmly and in keeping with this he ignores his son's wife because of her social standing.

There is a strong similarity there with The Stepmother who also rose unexpectedly (in that case  through an inheritance), was treated badly and then managed to engineer some sort of victory.

Rutherford & Son explores various aspects of social class, not just his son's marriage.

Theirs is new money and not everybody gives the Rutherfords the respect the father thinks they deserve.

The daughter is lonely because she is not allowed to mix with people in the village, though she has started to form a relationship that would also be seen as unsuitable.

The play is rich in characterisation with Rutherford leading the way ably supported by the rest of the cast. The acting is good throughout. I thought that the direction was a little static at times with the non-talkers standing unnaturally still but the play is all about dialogue, there is almost no physical action in it at all,so the stilted movement did not matter much. If the purpose of the direction was to not get in the way of the dialogue then it worked.

Their are various stories in play as we learn the fate of each of the Rutherford sibling, learning much more about the social rules of the time as we do so. The Rutherford succession also gets resolved in a slightly surprising and very effective way dramatically.

Rutherford & Son was a fine play well presented. That may seem like scant praise but that's not my intention. Not all plays can be sensational, and I do not expect that, but I do want an "average" performance to entertain me and Rutherford & Son did that with some style.

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