Rutherford & Son at St James’s Theatre
Set in 1912, Rutherford & Son does little to contradict the grim picture that is often painted of northern towns following the Industrial Revolution. However, for the protagonist John Rutherford Junior, life has also been bleak in the south. The play begins shortly after his return to the family home, since living on the breadline in London with his wife and young son. Suffering with an illness and unable to work, John clings to hope in the form of an invention. He believes the invention can make his fortune if only his father, the formidable owner of the family business, were to purchase it from him.
Written by the female playwright Githa Sowerby, Rutherford & Son is the tale of a family torn apart. Despite some humorous lines, the story is far from uplifting. It is, however, a thought-provoking piece and the moral debate presented is comparable to that of J B Priestley’s An Inspector Calls.
The play is performed by a cast of eight members from Northern Broadsides, a touring company based in Halifax. The acting is of a high standard and the dialogue is convincing. One of the strongest performers is newcomer Gilly Tompkins as the outspoken Mrs Henderson, who makes her character utterly believable despite her larger-than-life nature. The stage design is simple yet elegant and the transitions between scenes are very effective.
Rutherford & Son is a tragic story about personal ambition and the bittersweet relationship between parent and child. It transports viewers to a time when – for better or worse – tradition is at the core of family life and must be upheld. While the play is far from cheerful, it is well worth watching for its compelling script and gripping insight into a world that has long past.
Rutherford & Son is at St James’s Theatre until 29th June 2013. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.