Gareth Thomas in Rutherford

Review from The Stage Oct. 11, 2001 by Stephen Giles

There are two main reasons why a rivival of Githa Sowerby's play charting the decline of a family of northern working-class capitalists is an excellent idea.

Firstly, it is a valuable and woefully underrated social document which deals with the decline of the industrial Revolution, workers' rights and the emancipation of women. Secondly, it is a very good play with powerfully drawn characters and a very strong, positive message.

Joanna Read's powerful production at the Playhouse is structured around two pivotal, magnificently delivered roles. Gareth Thomas' Rutherford-- the bluff, austere and unfeeling father-- works his way through the sensibilities of his children as he seeks to keep his glassmaking business alive. Thomas is excellent, powerful and sharp with an immense presence.

His daughter Janet, a superb performance by Ruth Mitchell, is the only one of his children to stand up and defy the monsterlike master-- with devastating results. Mitchell's performance is also strong but by turns pathetic, emotive and deeply moving.

Rutherford's other sons, the maddeningly self-important John Junior and the emotionally-starved Dick, are well played by Martin Parr and Simeon Truby respectively. Niamnh Daly, as John Junior's near-ignored wife Mary, is also very good, as is the entire supporting cast.

Characters come and go and all contribute to a sense of the austerity of the Rutherford household, a point which is reaffirmed by Tim Meacock's clever design juxtaposing a classic drawing room setting with a barren prison of glass rods.

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