Arts Reviews

Neat16 – Lawrence and Williams: By Night and Day @ Nottingham Playhouse

To showcase and celebrate the extraordinary cultural scene within Nottingham, this year saw the return of Neat, the Nottingham European Arts and Theatre Festival. From opera to contemporary art, the program consists of a variety of events to interest a wide range of people. A stand-out event for Impact Arts was the thrilling exploration of the work and representation of one of Nottingham’s finest, the controversial author D.H. Lawrence, performed at the Nottingham Playhouse. 

This excellent performance, directed by Martin Berry, Associate Director at the University of Nottingham’s own Lakeside Arts Centre, combines the two plays: The Fight for Barbara by D.H. Lawrence, and Tennessee Williams’ The Night of the Zeppelin. The performance took place in two parts, the first being a performed reading of Williams’ play. Although only a short excerpt from this piece, the performance did not lack the energy of an entire play.

The remainder of the performance was a longer reading of Lawrence’s lesser-known play, The Fight for Barbara, which involves the passionate struggles of two lovers. Based on the lives of Lawrence and his wife Frieda, they battled the disappointment of her parents and attempts from her husband to win her back. What made this performance all the more exciting was the fact that The Night of the Zeppelin was only recently discovered in 2014 in Texas, meaning this Playhouse production is its first performance. This premiere added to the uniqueness of the performance, and celebrated not only Lawrence’s work, but Williams’ too.

“The combination of both these works meant that it was much more than simply a celebration of Nottingham’s own D.H. Lawrence”

At first I thought that it was strange to combine the work of these two playwrights, both renowned in their own sense with their own characteristic style. I was proved wrong, however, when the link between these plays was revealed. Lawrence can be seen in the portrayal of the main character, Jimmy Wesson, in his own play The Fight for Barbara, which depicts his turbulent relationship with his wife Frieda, who was famously known to despise her representation in the play.

He can also be seen within Williams’ excerpt, which captures the essence of Lawrence, Frieda, fellow novelist Katherine Mansfield, and her husband John Middleton Murray perfectly. The combination of both these works meant that it was much more than simply a celebration of Nottingham’s own D.H. Lawrence. Being paired with the work of Williams gave this performance a unique perspective, as the two plays worked perfectly together as companion pieces.

“Holly Lucas, who played both Frieda and Barbara gave a performance that was captivating and energetic”

The performance was made all the more brilliant by the enthusiasm of the actors. Rather than performing a reading of Williams’ excerpt, due to its short length, the cast learned and performed the ten page excerpt with energy and vitality. Holly Lucas, who played both Frieda and Barbara, gave a performance that was captivating and energetic.

She displayed an immense show of talent, performing both an accurate German accent and the privileged comic voice of Barbara in her petty quarrels with her lover, played with passion by This is England‘s Kieran Hardcastle. The dynamic relationship between the two characters was so compelling that at first I thought them to be husband and wife until the true husband of Barbara was revealed.

This piece offered something entirely different to my usual experience of the theatre. Not only was I given an insight into recently undiscovered material, but also a contemporary pairing of two playwrights I wouldn’t have thought to put together. I thoroughly recommend this show, and the Neat16 Festival to everyone; it is definitely worth a visit!


Lizzie Robinson

Image courtesy of Neat16 and Nottingham Playhouse

Neat16 is running until Sunday 12th June. For more information see here

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