Drama Review – D H Lawrence – The Widowing Of Mrs Holroyd
Lawrence was sadly under-valued as a play-wright, which was the line of writing he most favoured. Only a few of his plays were performed during his lifetime. This was due to the banning of his work early on in his career due to obscenity allegations.
Lawrence was driven into exile, travelling much of his life, in Europe, South America and Australia; his drama writing and acting could not be pursued as his other literary output was.
The Widowing, a play based on his own short story, The Odour Of Chrysanthemums, was performed at Altrincham’s Garrick Theatre by Lawrence and an amateur troop, and well received it would not be performed again, this time professionally, until 1968.
It is a story of a tragedy in a Midlands mining community. Mrs Holroyd’s husband is a coal-miner, a brute and a womaniser. His own children report that he has been seen again dancing with women of loose morals at a local inn instead of coming home. Act one closes when he even brings two of the dancing girls home, right in front of Mrs Holroyd, who desperately struggles to get them to leave.
Act two has Mrs Holroyd again abandoned in favour of the inn, though she is offered a chance to escape with an offer of love from her neighbour, Mr Blackmore, who loves her and invites her to run away with him to Spain, bringing the children with her. Though tempted, Mrs Holroyd declines the invitation as she feels loyal to her husband. The act involves Mrs Holroyd and Blackmore tending to Mr Holroyd when he comes home violently drunk and eventually barely able to stand up.
Act three has Mrs Holroyd assuming her husband is late home again due to a post-work pub visit, but enquiries by Blackmore reveal that he has been killed by a pit collapse close to the end of his shift. The act ends as Mrs Holroyd and the deceased Mr Holroyd’s mother unite in grief cleaning up his body in the house.
Poignant, and very realistic. Mr Holroyd seems an appalling individual until the late speech by his mother pointing out that he lived a hard dangerous life and needed compensations. She blames Mrs Holroyd for expecting high standards of a simple man. The mother figure blames her for trapping him in domestic routine. Mr Holroyd becomes much as Lawrence considered his own father, a man defined by his work, with virtually no other identifying factors in his life.
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