Star rating - 5/10
Northern Broadsides have a great reputation as a quality touring company, although I have to say the productions of theirs that I have seen have been a bit hit and miss. Hit was definitely their adaption of Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost last year which was terrific, and misses were both We Are Three Sisters, a laboured version of the lives of the Brontë sisters from 2011, and sadly also this Jonathan Miller directed version of this forgotten play by Githa Sowerby, Rutherford & Son.
Barrie Rutter is both the Artistic Director of the company, and also stars in this production as John Rutherford, the overbearing and domineering factory owner who has built up his business at the cost of his family and personal relationships. For most of the first half he shouts incessantly at his children, his sister and anyone else on stage. It all feels a bit monotonal - a bit like being bludgeoned over the head for an hour. Then in comes Wendi Peters (aka Cilla Battersby from Corrie) as the drunken local woman, Mrs Henderson, with an axe to grind. Peters lights up the stage in this small part, and shows what a fine actor she is.
Rutherford has built up his empire and scared the living daylights out of his family in the process. One of his sons, Richard, is a mealy mouthed ineffectual local priest, and the other John has married beneath himself and hopelessly dreams of his invention of a metallic formula making his fortune. His bitter daughter Janet feels trapped in the home and longs to break away with her secret lover, and her father's right hand man Martin. There is a moaning aunt, and John's southern wife Mary who puts bows on her baby's sons bonnet, in transgression from the plain Rutherford way.
The problem is that none of the characters are very likeable at all. The direction is surprisingly patchy for one so accomplished, one scene change attempting to portray a time lapse of three days handled particularly clumsily. Rutherford gets his inevitable denouement in the second half, but the play sadly lacks subtlety and finesse in getting its message about class and family relationships across.