This Northern Broadsides play takes its title from Philip Larkin’s poem MCMXIV, and the publicity flyers gave a good idea to expect. A close community in the pre-war golden summer, whose dreams and lives would be shattered by war. In other words – a presentation of the standard ‘futility’ interpretation of the Great War, what Elizabeth Vandiver calls ‘the old paradigm’. This was indeed roughly what we got at the Lawrence Batley theatre in Huddersfield yesterday, but I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected to.
Northern Broadsides is one of my favourite theatre companies. Barrie Rutter founded it twenty-odd years ago with the aim of presenting Shakespeare and Greek tragedy in productions using muscular Northern voices – reclaiming the plays from southern smoothness. I remember how impressed I was by the first of their shows that I saw, the Alcestis of Euripedes, as translated by Ted Hughes.