D.H. Lawrence’s 1913 play The Daughter-in-Law is an original kitchen sink drama, set in a Nottinghamshire mining village. This production at the Arcola Theatre is directed by Jack Gamble. Amazingly, it was Lawrence’s first play; he described it as “neither a tragedy nor a comedy – just ordinary”.
Mrs comes to see Luther Gascoyne’s mother to tell her that he has got her daughter Bertha pregnant; however, having recently married Minnie, Luther is unable to make reparations by marrying the girl. This revelation exposes the cracks in Luther and Minnie’s relationship, and the play is a study of this, as well as the effect of her surroundings on the sensitive, thoughtful Minnie. In addition, it relates to Lawrence’s novel Sons and Lovers in the way it examines the conflict between mothers and their sons’ wives.
Set against the backdrop of a miners’ strike, the play mixes the political, the social and the personal in a modern and refreshing way. On the surface a domestic drama, it echoes the wider context of the period.
There are strong performances from Ellie Nunn as Minnie and Harry Hepple as her husband, as well as Veronica Roberts as Luther’s domineering, life-hardened mother. It’s a bleak play, but it’s not without its Northern humour, and it’s a superb production.