Awakening of a durable ‘gem’

Hindle Wakes
Hindle Wakes
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Hindle Wakes - Octagon, Bolton

Until March 21

Times and social attitudes might have changed, but none of that diminishes the enduring appeal of this century-old gem from the ‘Manchester School’ whose alumni left behind rafts of durable drama.

Playwright Stanley Houghton insisted Hindle Wakes was intended purely as entertainment, but even viewed through a more modern prism it’s rich in wisdom as well as amusement.

The young couple at the centre of its story return from an illicit Wakes weekend, and into the heart of a domestic crisis affecting three families. The ensuing comedy has as much to do with the social positioning of the working class Hawthorns, the middle class Jeffcotes, and the nouveau riche Farrars as they determine just what’s to be done for their common good.

It’s a three-tier wedding confection of household chaos cooked with the lightest of touches from director David Thacker. There can sometimes be a temptation to overheat the themes of liberation or equality at the centre of Hindle Wakes, but Thacker, and his strong cast, are having none of that.

There’s a feeling that, served in the heart of an old cottonopolis like Bolton, the play is being seen in its spiritual hom. But it will be no less entertaining or provocative when taken on a tour of Lancashire at the end of March.

David Upton