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Rutherford and Son

by on 9 February 2019

Master of Northern Melodramas

Rutherford and Son

by Githa Sowerby

Questors Theatre at the Judi Dench Playhouse, Ealing until 16th February

Review by Viola Selby

Through Sowerby’s unsentimental writing of Rutherford and Son, made real by the excellent direction of Simon Roberts and the period perfect costumes designed by Nichola Thomas, the audience is plunged through time to an industrialised Northern English family living room, where the whole play takes place. This living room has been creatively designed by Bron Blake and lighting designer Chris Newall to appear and feel wonderfully warm and welcoming, with the continued hanging smoke of an industrial town.


However, once into the story, having everything happen in this small space heightens the feeling of claustrophobia which each family member feels whilst under their father’s rule. And what control the father has! David Sellar is not only master of the house but also master of the stage as he manages to brilliantly depict a man whose sole focus is his business and family name, no matter the cost. Through tense silences, fervent debates, groans and moans made hilarious by the brilliant Despina Sellar as Rutherford’s ever-complaining sister Anne, and malicious monologues, passionately performed by an extremely creative cast, the audience are sent on an emotional rollercoaster of dramas, all of which are made even more realistic and relatable due to the personal approach each actor has taken in understanding their character.

Rutherford’s main issue, as the title hints, is one of his sons. John and Dick Rutherford want to create futures for themselves, both of which go against their father’s views and wishes for them and his company. Kai Hogenacker (John) and William Newsome (Dick) represent their characters’ struggles in such a sensitive and realistic way that the audience can truly understand and empathise with the characters.

Whilst a less obvious issue, which arises once a secret affair is brought to Rutherford’s attention, is the oppression of Rutherford’s daughter Janet and John’s wife Mary. Both women are subject to the men’s commands and constant criticism and, although they seem to have peacefully succumb to this subjugation, it is through the explosive acting abilities of Dani Beckett (Janet) and Evelina Plonyte (Mary) that it becomes obvious that these women are not to be messed with.

Rutherford4Nevertheless, through various events, it also becomes clear how Rutherford’s control reaches far beyond his family, as his focus on success impacts the lives of his neighbours and work force. In particular Martin, portrayed by Julian Casey, and Mrs Henderson, skilfully represented by Alex McDevitt as a poor working-class mother who comes begging for Rutherford to reinstate her son after Rutherford has fired him, but who threatens Rutherford the very second he threatens to take her son to the magistrate. Whilst Casey exquisitely encapsulates his character’s moral dilemma, as Martin has to decide whether to stay true to his beliefs or to go against a friend as his boss, whom he greatly respects and has worked for many years, wishes. Yet no matter his decision, it is a secret revealed to Rutherford by Dick and Janet that ends up being Martin’s undoing, again showing the power and control Rutherford has.

Rutherford and Son was originally meant to be called The Master and from Robert’s interpretation it is clear to see why. This is the master of all Northern melodramas.

Viola Selby
February 2019

Photography by Robert Vass and Lewis Hine


From → Drama, Reviews

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