Tag Archives: Veronica Roberts

The Daughter-In-Law – 4 Stars


The Daughter-In-Law

Arcola Theatre

Reviewed – 29th May 2018


“The cast’s command of the dialect, coupled with their grasp of the complexities of the characters, lift it above being a mere period drama, making the ordinary extraordinary”


Written in 1913, D. H. Lawrence never saw his play, “The Daughter-In-Law”, produced during his lifetime. It wasn’t until 1967 that his depiction of marital warfare between a pit worker and his wife had its premiere at the Royal Court. Since then it has been hailed as one of the great British dramas of the twentieth century. What is more surprising than the late recognition for the play, however, is the level of praise awarded to it. Lawrence himself described it as “neither a tragedy nor a comedy – just ordinary”.

Whether or not you agree with his self-deprecatory critique, the script does come with a built-in style that may not appeal to many theatre goers today. Jack Gamble makes no concessions to the modern audience in his production at the Arcola, which is to be applauded. He tells it like it is, with straight forward, intelligent and faithful direction.

Set in a Nottinghamshire coal-mining village its central theme is the conflict between a mother and her daughter-in-law. Mrs Gascoyne (Veronica Roberts) rules over her two sons, Joe (Matthew Biddulph) and Luther (Harry Hepple), the latter newly married to Minnie. Despite a fondness for platitudes such as “a son is a son till he takes him a wife”, it is clear that Roberts’ matriarchal figure has no intention of cutting the apron strings. Tensions are raised, then fall again, as the dialogue chips away at the concurrent issues of class, money and the impending national coal strike.

While it seems that the subject is in danger of being overmined, it is the entrance of Minnie that kick starts the play. Ellie Nunn immediately lets us know that Minnie is a ‘shrew’ unwilling to be tamed. Moreover, her hopes for marriage are not being met by Luther. But Nunn’s moving performance, reinforced by Hepple’s multi-layered portrayal of Luther, convinces us that, despite being at each other’s throats, this could be a loving marriage but for the overshadowing figure of the mother.

Initially the performances are a little too mannered, but with the benefit of the knowledge of what is to come it is now clear that this is a deliberate contrast to the explosive final scenes. Dinah Mullen’s sound design mirrors this with the crescendo of the violent confrontations of the coal-strike outside the house, while Geoff Hense’s shadowy lighting design captures the mood of lives losing focus in a haze of coal dust.

Where it sometimes lacks D. H. Lawrence’s sense of sexual passion, this is a show fuelled by finely chiselled performances. It might appear dated at times with dialogue that grates against contemporary sensibilities, but it is a piece firmly of its time and place. And therein lies its beauty: a snapshot of a bygone era – ‘kitchen sink drama’ before the phrase was coined. The cast’s command of the dialect, coupled with their grasp of the complexities of the characters, lift it above being a mere period drama, making the ordinary extraordinary.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Idil Sukan



Arcola Theatre

The Daughter-In-Law

Arcola Theatre until 21st June


Previously reviewed at this venue
Heretic Voices | ★★★★ | January 2018
Fine & Dandy | ★★★★★ | February 2018
The Parade | ★★★ | May 2018


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My Gay Best Friend – 5 Stars


My Gay Best Friend

Hope Theatre

Reviewed – 10th January 2018


“by the end I felt as though I had known Rachel and Gavin longer than they had known each other”


My Gay Best Friend opens with Rachel leaving Gavin an answerphone message. She isn’t happy, and calls him every available unflattering word for a gay man. This sets the tone for what is to come, a well-observed look at the close and often contradictory friendship between a gay man and a straight woman. Written and performed by Louise Jameson and Nigel Fairs, the play unfolds as a series of mostly separate monologues, with Rachel and Gavin each telling their side of the story. Their interactions are limited to flashbacks and anecdotes, and there is the delightful sense of watching two equally vivid solo performances occasionally flare up together in ways that are funny, touching, and utterly relatable.

Jameson and Fairs are consummate performers ably served by meticulous direction from Veronica Roberts. Rachel is by turns brittle and outrageous, lively and furious, while Gavin is calmer, gentle and charmingly neurotic. Both are immediately recognisable as realer than real life. Particularly refreshing is that the character of Gavin is a human first, and a gay man second; his is more than another sorry tale of coming out, facing homophobia, and being a victim. In many ways, the dramatic heavy-lifting is framed from Rachel’s perspective and highlighted by her sexually incompatible friend, and the nuanced and particular relationship the two forge.

Jameson and Fairs’ writing is terrific, both very very funny and highly economical. Not a word is throwaway, and, by the end of My Gay Best Friend, I felt as though I had known Rachel and Gavin longer than they had known each other, with all the laughs, tears and trauma that that entails. Through constantly switching back and forth between monologues and flashbacks, the play is able to maintain a terrific, unpredictable momentum that is balanced by an even-handed and completely unapologetic harmony of humour and drama.

My Gay Best Friend achieves all this without much by the way of set or props, and, in doing so, is a standard-bearer for scratch theatre in London today. This play draws its strengths not from showiness or gimmickry, but instead from its sheer quality; excellent writing; careful direction; and performances so lucid that it is now hard to imagine that Rachel and her best friend Gavin are not real humans that are out there somewhere, still bickering after all.


Reviewed by Matthew Wild


My Gay Best Friend

Hope Theatre until 27th January



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