The tiny Finborough Theatre in West London is one of my favourites. Like the Orange Tree at Richmond, it finds part of the British theatrical heritage that the National Theatre and the RSC don’t seem to be remotely aware of.
This September and October, the Finborough programme will include Horniman’s Choice, a quartet of one-act plays first presented by the great Annie Horniman at the Gaiety in Manchester, Britain’s first repertory theatre.
There are two hard-hitting plays by Harold Brighouse (who wrote Hobson’s Choice); one is about the dangers of coal-mining, and the other about the fate of the elderly and disabled in the days before the Welfare State.
The third play is by Stanley Houghton, author of Hindle Wakes, and I like the sound of it very much – it’s called The Old Testament and the New, and is described thus:
1914. The home. Christopher Battersby is a devout Christian, running his household in strict and obsessive accordance with the Old Testament. When his daughter runs off to London with an unsuitable man, he struggles with his faith and the limits of what he can forgive.
The fourth play is Night Watch, by Allan Monkhouse, a strange comedy set in a military hospital in 1916. I wrote about it after reading the script a few years ago, and would very much like to see it on stage. Now that I live a long way from London, it’s less easy for me to visit theatres there, but I shall make the effort for this one.
The plays of this period are revived less frequently than they should be, though when they reach the stage they usually repay the effort. The West Yorkshire Playhouse did a good job on Lawrence’s The Daughter-In-Law a while back, and Northern Broadsides triumphed in Rutherford and Son. Let’s have more.