The Finborough Theatre continues its justly acclaimed tradition of revivals with a centenary production of Stanley Houghton’s Hindle Wakes. Revolving around an affair that occurs during a Bank Holiday for Lancashire Mill workers, and the ensuing arguments among the parents of the couple who have played away, in Llandudno of all places, the play is a tightly constructed satire on Edwardian hypocrisy, handled with deft humour by director Bethan Dear.
Above all, Hindle Wakes is funny. The self-righteousness of the parents, determined that their children should (or shouldn’t) marry after making merry, is so unsubtle that the characters run straight into every trap set for them and Dear chooses to play it for broad comedy. There may be some room for reservation when it comes to the younger generation: Fanny, her weekend lover Alan and his fiancée Beatrice seem more engaged with their situation and choose to think about what they, rather than society, really want. But the Victorian generation is easy to parody, so Dear’s approach to go for the laughs makes sense.
The talented cast embraces the comedy marvellously. Peter Ellis and Richard Durden play the fathers with the shared sense of resolving the unfortunate event, and both give excellent renditions of gruff Northern manners. But it’s the female parts that really make Hindle Wakes stand out. The mothers, Anna Carteret and Susan Penhaligan, have meaty roles that they manage impressively without parody. And our heroine Fanny, the plain speaking Lancashire lass, startles and inspires with her frankness. Ellie Turner’s clarity and passion in the role do the character justice – I’d go to Llandudno with her anytime.
Until 29 September 2012
Photo by Claire Bilyard
Written 15 September 2012 for The London Magazine