Fringe Box



Review: Rutherford and Son – Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Published on: 15 May, 2013
Updated on: 15 May, 2013
Rutherford and Son - Photo Nobby Clark

Rutherford and Son – Photo Nobby Clark

by Amy Yorston

Ranked by The National Theatre as one of the top one hundred plays of the century Rutherford and Son is a tale of love, greed, business and family relationships.

Written and set in 1912 the play takes place in the household of John Rutherford, proud owner of Rutherford’s Glass Factory. The success of the company means more to him than anything else and he is obsessed with leaving a healthy legacy for his son.

Rutherford is a hard-nosed businessman, cruel and demanding, controlling a workforce and family through fear. The effects of his harshness are evident in his relationships with his children and these relationships form the main story arc of the play.

Barrie Rutter (Founder and Artistic Director of the company) brings a certain charisma to the role and, even amidst all of his shouting and postulating, one can’t help but admire the sheer will of the character to keep his business going. It is perhaps a reflection upon our current times that modern audiences can find anything redeemable in this cold-hearted man.

As his daughter Janet, Sara Poyzer, creates a burning intensity and her eventual emotional explosion is a believable one. Despite Rutherford’s efforts to bring her up as a lady he only succeeds in making her lonely and socially isolated leading to her bitterness.

Sons John (Nicholas Shaw) and Richard (Andrew Grose) also bear the weight of their father’s great expectations and rebel in their own separate ways.

What is striking about this production is the lack of sound effects or mood music. The scene change takes place in silence and each act begins without any kind of fanfare. By the end of the play the heaviness of this silence is deliberately palpable as Rutherford’s world begins to crumble around him.

The themes of this play still resonate despite its age as business, social mobility and family expectations are still subjects to be debated from many angles. This is an engaging but intense production with strong performances and tight direction. The dimly lit stage captures the oppressive atmosphere of the house but the actors create sparks with their dialogue.

Rutherford and Son
By Gita Sowerby
Theatre company: Northern Broadsides
Edited for Northern Broadsides by Blake Morrison

Rutherford and Son runs at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre until Saturday, May 18.

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