Anger, fear, bitterness, pain - it’s all in the family

The cast of Rutherford & Son and, below, Barrie Rutter
The cast of Rutherford & Son and, below, Barrie Rutter

Northern Broadsides’ latest production, the fine drama Rutherford & Son, has tempted director Sir Jonathan Miller back to the theatre stage for the first time in five years.

Far from being a safe haven, John Rutherford’s family home is a fearful, tense, angry place.

Rutherford, a domineering industrialist, is in trouble - his glassworks is failing, he’s had to go to the bank for help, his rivals are circling and now his ungrateful sons and daughter are threatening all he has fought for.

It is a household seething with bitterness and frustration and, under the soft lamplight and smooth routine, the place has become ‘like a prison, not a scrap of love in the whole place.’

As Rutherford tries to keep the lid on the boiling tension round the dining table, it’s clear the pressure cooker is going to blow.

Githa Sowerby’s remarkable family drama Rutherford & Son was written in 1912 and was a smash hit in the West End when it was first staged. More than 100 years later it is the play that has tempted director Sir Jonathan Miller back to the professional stage after five years and reunited him with Northern Broadsides’ Barrie Rutter. It seems particularly appropriate to be watching this strongly northern drama in the Viaduct Theatre under Dean Clough mills and the themes it addresses - class, gender, money. family - are as relevant as ever.

Barrie Rutter is the hard-nosed ends-justify-the-means pragmatist who is going to save his factory at any cost. He may be full of bluster but in a play with a lot of shouting and a lot of words, he’s at his most threatening when he’s standing still and saying nothing.

The play’s enormous drive and energy is well-served by a fine cast and a striking set, beautifully lit by Guy Hoare. Nicholas Shaw, Andrew Grose and Sara Poyzer are the three children who cross their father and Catherine Kinsella is excellent as the daughter-in-law who proves to be his equal in pragmatism. At the end of the play doing the right thing comes down to taking care of business.

Rutherford & Son is at the Viaduct Theatre, Halifax, until Saturday at 7.30pm with a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm.

Tel: 01422 255266.

See this week’s what’s on listings in the My Week emag

Our tablet app users should touch ‘Archive’ at the bottom of the screen, then touch the front page of this week’s Courier to bring up the option to view this week’s My Week in full.