Socialist Worker

Sex and politics in DH Lawrence's The Daughter in Law

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2607

Ellie Nunn as Minnie Gascoyne and Harry Hepple as Luther Gascoyn

Ellie Nunn as Minnie Gascoyne and Harry Hepple as Luther Gascoyn (Pic: Idil Sukan )


Relationships, strikes and the strife of working class life are brought together in DH Lawrence’s The Daughter in Law.

Set against the backdrop of the 1912 Miners’ Strike in Nottinghamshire, it follows the troubles of newly-weds Minnie and Luther Gascoyne. Ellie Nunn and Harry Hepple’s performances show how the frustration of passion lost plays out.

But the two make the scenes more than a battle of wills between two people. The protagonists’ lives reflect the inequality that surrounds them.

Luther works down a mine while Minnie “makes home”.

He in turn has been made emotionally restricted by his protective mother, who simultaneously resents the dependence of men. “How is a woman to have a husband if all the men belong to their mothers?” asks Minnie, as no one can open up and give themself away.

Minnie and Luther are on an unequal footing.

Working

With an adequate inheritance, she is better off than her miner husband. Years of working in service for the wealthy have given Minnie airs, which is brought out as Luther is goaded for his lack of oomph.

This comes to a head after Luther is told a devastating secret and needs £40.

More fundamentally, Minnie feels the burden of inequality within marriage as aspirations and reality clash.

A stand-out scene comes after Minnie spends large sums on prints in a desperate effort to provoke a reaction out of this lifeless man. Luther casts them into the hearth.

The play is a portrayal of working class people in their own voice. The cast talk in the Eastwood village dialect throughout.

But it isn’t romantic about notions of “community”, which can be suffocating as well as filled with solidarity.

Lawrence touched on all the questions that brings up. And, in the first revival for 15 years in London, director Jack Gamble’s production and cast powerfully relays them to audiences today.

The Daughter in Law is at the Arcola Theatre until 23 June.

Directed by Jack Gamble. Go to arcolatheatre.com


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