Perhaps the Establishment was too busy tut-tutting at D.H.Lawrence’s “filthy” novels to properly recognise his playwriting skills in his lifetime.
This little gem was never performed until after his death and in a lusty revival here, by Manchester’s Library Theatre, puts it on a pedestal as a truthful, touching and humorous account of everyday drama in a working class household.
Too many plays are described as the forerunner of modern-day TV soap operas, but The Daughter-in-Law could fairly lay claim to being the genesis.
Indeed you could almost imagine the schedules being cleared for a feature-length ‘special’ that sported a story like this.
Six weeks into a young couple’s married life comes an event from the past that could shatter the already shaky foundations of their relationship.
He’s a jobbing miner, while she has aspirations and – more importantly – a little hard-earned cash. She’s also acquired an indomitable mother-in-law!
But this is 1912 and neither woman cares to know her place. Lawrence has built their characters with tenderness and an astonishing attention to detail, in particular one that stretches to the language they use and how they use it.
The Nottingham dialect, on first encounter, seems as thick and deeply-buried as a coal seam, but concentrate, and it delivers a deal of shiny black humour – and a lot of honesty about human nature. Ultimately it revolves around love and trust, and how both can be misused.
It’s risky work handling men, says one character, but director Chris Honer and an excellent cast demonstrate several safe pairs of hands in managing this production.
Wigan-born actress Natalie Grady is particularly effective as newly-married Minnie and with Alun Raglan as her husband theirs is a genuinely-heartfelt dilemma that becomes a romantic cliffhanger.
As family matriarch Diane Fletcher’s character unwittingly carries much of the colloquial comedy; Paul Simpson is a cantankerous younger brother; and Susan Twist always delivers, this time as the visitor with bad news.
Highly recommended, it runs until March 10.