A little-known fact: novelist D. H. Lawrence (Lady Chatterley’s Lover) was also an excellent playwright, and The Daughter-in-Law (1913) just one of his eight plays. Astoundingly fresh and prescient more than a century on, this new production boasts a fantastic cast that makes the proto-“kitchen sink” drama soar.
Minnie (Ellie Nunn) has become a daughter-in-law to Mrs Gascoyne (Veronica Roberts), married for six weeks to lazy coal miner Luther Gascoyne (Harry Hepple), for apparently no other reason than Minnie couldn’t get anyone else. A few months prior to their marriage, Luther had slept with another woman: what Luther doesn’t know is that he has impregnated her too.
Ellie Nunn gives a phenomenal performance, flying between gut-wrenching heartache and terrifying rage, all while trying to be the perfect housewife. The acting by all is West End quality. Staged in the round, the little dining room becomes nightmarishly claustrophobic, as each character bares their true feelings to one another.
Director Jack Gamble has brought out the very best from his ensemble cast of five: far from a period piece, Lawrence’s play feels alive and intense. The difficult Nottinghamshire dialect is not a barrier, thanks to great performances (and a handy glossary in the programme), and provides much of the play’s enchanting musicality. This is fringe theatre at its finest: don’t miss it.