Gareth Thomas in Rutherford

Review by Judith Proctor.

This is a very brief review as I'm knackered after a late night Saturday and all day Sunday clearning rhododendron on a nature reserve.

We went to see Rutherford and Son purely because Gareth was in it. The blurb didn't honestly sound all that interesting and a friend who'd read the play said it sounded horribly bleak and depressing.

In actuality, it was amazingly good - the kind of play that has you analysing the characters and their lives long after it has finished. The characters are complex and the strong cast really show you the depths of the characters.

There is humour in unexpected places, deeply-rooted passions (one friend said he was expecting a murder at any moment), and the loneliness of isolated people.

On the surface, it's a play about Rutherford and his son arguing over who has the right to exploit the son's invention. Actually, it's a play about the position of women in Edwardian society and the ways in which people can get trapped. It also looks at the relationships between the classes. Rutherford is a self-made man who has brought up his sons as 'gentlemen'.

Rutherford's treatment of his family is in many ways appalling. He can be an absolute bastard. Yet, one also comes to understand him, to see what drives him and to occasionally feel a degree of sympathy for him. (And then see the bastard all over again as he manipulates and punishes people.)

There some wonderful touches in the play. The turning point was something as simple as the laying of a tablecloth (a touch of genius on the part of the playwright to make something so simple carry so much meaning).

This is a play in which the strong characters are not always whom they seem at first. Rutherford's respect is finally reserved for the least likely person - the one character who can fight with him as an equal.

I'll try and write a fuller review later, but if you have the chance, get to see the play. It still has a week to run. Even my 14 year old son said it was worth it (and he's not easily impressed by old plays). It's on in Salisbury playhouse and there's lots to see and do in Salisbury. We went round the cathedral (and spent ages looking at a 14th century clock to see how it worked - a massive thing made of wrought iron and you could see every part clearly), and a National Trust house just around the corner, but there's also museums and so forth in easy walking distance of the theatre and cathedral (and they're still open in October).

We had a chat with Gareth before and after the play. He looked really tired after the matinee, but there was no trace of that in his evening performance. He puts an incredible amount of energy into Rutherford. The reviews of this play have been very good, and I can now understand why.

Go and see it!


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