Hindle Wakes

Date 10th October 2023
Society The Green Room Theatre, Wilmslow
Venue The Green Room Theatre, Wilmslow
Type of Production Play
Director Ian Cole
Written By Stanley Houghton


Author: Steph Niland

Hindle Wakes is a brilliantly satisfying and well-structured story. Stanley Houghton, a member of the group known as the Manchester Dramatists, was born in Sale, Cheshire, a nice fact to know, that we were sitting down to watch the endeavours of a local talent. Also nice is the fact that, bearing in mind it was written in 1910, Hindle Wakes was one of the first Victorian era’s plays to depict a strong female protagonist. Houghton’s beliefs come through strong in this play and in this particular rendition at The Green Room, Wilmslow. Ian Cole, in his direction, ensured the audience grasped the importance of these beliefs and the weight they carried at the time – out of date attitudes, female independence and questioning the moral rigidity of the time were explored richly and clearly. The action flowed nicely, and the characterisation was particularly wonderful in places.

The play revolves mainly around two families of different socio-economic backgrounds - a third family enters the fray later - and it takes place over a couple of days, so the conversational action moves on apace and it is fun to watch it unfold.

The Hawthorn family is the lower of the two classes. Mrs Hawthorn was given by Linda Batson, Christopher Hawthorn by Keith Thompson and Fanny, the strong female protagonist, by Niamh Phelan. The relationship dynamics between these 3 were well studied. The parents, attempting to be strict and pious in the face of a proud and headstrong daughter was put across well, and then seeing the softer father and slight battleaxe wife contrast was very enjoyable. Keith Thompson’s Christopher was an endearing rendition; A hardworking family man, who really couldn’t handle, and didn’t want to handle any scandal. Loving at times, appropriately subservient at others and awkwardly sticking his courage when needed – well done.

 Niamh played a beautifully sardonic and cool-headed Fanny. The attitude was appropriate for the era and although could have come across as spoilt or arrogant in its manner, it didn’t, it carried the weight, respectfully, of the viewpoint that the playwright was highlighting. The scene with Alan, later on in the play was so natural and a joy to watch. Congratulations.

The second family, Mr Jeffcote played by Andy Neve, Mrs Jeffcote performed by Val Middleton-Egan and Alan Jeffcote given by Jamie King, were the higher class. Houghton’s script gently pokes fun and allows the Jeffcotes to come across as buffoonly superior, he also makes them humorous, likeable and understandable in their efforts to right the situation in which they find themselves. Again, although Mr Jeffcote has strength of community standing and the power in the workplace, it is the female, Mrs Jeffcote that is written as if to have more clout in the home and husband and wife relationship. It is obvious both Andy and Val have a great understanding of comedy and interactions – theirs was a lovely, well – examined relationship and a proficient and natural delivery.

 Jamie King as Alan was particularly remarkable. The comedy and physicality were competently portrayed, and the young arrogance and self-importance radiated in every scene alongside a deeper self-awareness and kindness. He managed to make this rich, entitled lad about town, charming too. An excellent depiction.

The last family thrown into the mix is the Farrar family. Beatrice Farrar, betrothed to Alan Jeffcote, is played with dignity and gentility by Jess Trimble. A small but weighty role, Jess delivers her genuinely and with such benevolence that she leaves an impression as the most sincere character in the piece, excepting Fanny. Her father, Sir Timothy Farrar, played by Al Fowkes, was a nice cameo that Al ran with, and he produced a humorous and pompous Farrar that was nicely entertaining.

Alex Ashton as the Jeffcote’s ‘help’, Alfred, was a lovely calming and respectful influence, played with the correct air and sense of purpose. Well done.

As usual at The Green Room, the set design was well thought out and entrances and exits appropriate and interesting and set pieces and props well-researched and utilised. A strength with this society, that is always appreciated.

All in all, a delightful period comedy from The Green Room, that explores more than just humour and gave us well-rounded and natural characterisations, well-paced action, well-researched staging and a great evening’s entertainment.