[Image: Courtesy of Adel Players]
Adel Players have been entertaining audiences in North Leeds for almost 70 years. The theatre group stage three full-length plays each season and later this month, we are due to see a new production of one of the most powerful dramas in 20th-century British theatre.
From Wednesday 22nd to Saturday 25th October, Adel Players will be performing Githa Sowerby’s highly acclaimed play ‘Rutherford & Son’ at Adel Memorial Hall, directed by Pat Riley. Riley’s 2009 biography of Sowerby – ‘Looking for Githa’ – profiled the life and works of an extraordinary woman who broke the mould in Victorian and Edwardian England.
Adel Players are a subsidiary of registered charity the Adel War Memorial Association. With a membership exceeing 40, the group is a recent winner of four Wharfedale Festival of Theatre awards for its January production of Alan Ayckbourn’s ‘If I Were You’, which followed Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ back in April.
The narrative of ‘Rutherford & Son’ centres on a capitalist businessman who puts his factory before his family. The play was a hit with critics and audiences on its London debut in 1912 before successfully transferring to New York.
Playwright Githa Sowerby (1912 portrait by Jacob Hood)
On discussing the play, Riley explains “the principal character, John Rutherford, is based on Githa’s formidable grandfather, John Sowerby, who turned his father’s struggling glassworks into an international market leader. His relationships with other members of his family, especially his children, depend on whether or not they can be of benefit to his business and social aspirations.”
The playwright was originally listed as ‘KG Sowerby’ – but when the critics later learned of her true identity (at that time, women were still campaigning for the right to vote), they reacted with astonishment.
As a result, Sowerby’s later plays were largely ignored and gradually, her celebrity faded. It needed a National Theatre revival of ‘Rutherford & Son’ – which was subsequently included in the NT2000 ‘One Hundred Plays of the Century’ – a poll of leading arts figures – to introduce her talents to modern audiences.
Riley’s biography ‘Looking for Githa’, together with further productions of Sowerby’s plays, have further restored and enhanced the reputation of this feminist dramatist.
Riley has relished the challenge of directing ‘Rutherford & Son’ and interpreting the play for a new audience, but insists it has been a true team effort by the award-winning Adel Players.
“I’m lucky enough to have a brilliant team who have designed a set and an integrated sound and lighting plot which emphasise the play’s themes. The actors and I have worked together to develop ways in which the dominance of the factory over the family can be brought home.”
She is confident that the message of Sowerby’s masterpiece will continue to strike a chord with modern-day theatre-goers.
“Putting the worship of commercial and social success before the needs of people is as destructive today as it was when Githa Sowerby wrote this play. This story is timeless. That is why it is not just a good play – it is a great play.”
Adel Players’ production of ‘Rutherford & Son’ will be performed from 22nd – 25th October at 7.30pm.
Tickets can be reserved by phoning 0113 275 5585 or by emailing [email protected].
For more information, visit the theatre group’s website at www.adel-players.org.uk.
Follow on Twitter @AdelPlayers