Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 35 No 5. March 29, 1972
Drama — A Collier's Friday Night
A Collier's Friday Night
I still was 'hot' on Lawrence so I took the opportunity to review the latest Downstage offering. "Most appropriate, truly Lawrentian" I thought, as the very pregnant lass in the box office displayed her proud round bun and told me where to go with my ticket.
Hello all round to a bevy of theatre matrons, sipped my coffee and glanced about at the 'peanut' munching hob-nobs. This was opening night. No fart of fanfares though, just the magnified discordance of mass- mastication, punctuated with a few decibels of sipping, wind-letting and conversation.
Grey hair, swarthy complexion, aquiline nose, cruel eyes flicking malevolence at the entourage...Camera catches slightly-tipsy's ample tit about to fall into the pudding bowl. Take 3—one of the gaily-liberated slides...Camera closes on a mouth engaged in a bray, nostrils flexing and snorting....Interval - big scene, — "hello darlings" — delicate twinkling of the fingers. Nobody but nobody notices anybody before interval. A fat-arsed Falstaff-out-of-costume clowns for the table next to mine. Upstager. Somehow all vaguely familiar. The resurrected of Satyricon?
A Collier's Friday Night is an early dramatisation of a number of confrontations Lawrence was to enact again in Sons and Lovers. The incidents are factual; the conflicts biographical. Lawrence's early relationship with Jessie Chambers, for instance, is acted out by their two fictional counterparts, Ernest Lambert and Maggie Pearson.
The play concentrates on revealing inter-personal relationships. What we see crystallised in a moment of stage-time is much of the flow of the young Lawrence's emotional life — his attitude to his father, his attachment to his mother and his intellectual alliance with Jessie Chambers for whom his mother did not care.
The first act introduces us to the failed relationship existing between Mrs Lambert (read Mrs Lawrence) and Lambert senior (read Mr Lawrence) Incapable of building anything together in the face of England's colliery-devastated land, they bequeath to their children a bitter legacy - involvement in a crippling, emotional tug-of-war. Young Ernest (read D.H.L. with a bit of his elder brother, William, for good measure) although attending college, has supplanted his father as his mothers champion and wooer. His endearments, often couched in a foreign tongue, create around them both a private world of caress and response. Mr Lambert is a typical uncouth drunkard of a miner, at once envious and proud of his son's learning. His attempt to incur status and respect echoed poignantly throughout the play. "I ain't daft ya know. I'm not a fool". But each time he found himself slashed with a laugh a sneer or silence into a mere caricature of authority.
At this early stage, Lawrenc's sympathies lay with his mother. Later in life he was to change his mind. After his mother died, when he understood more clearly the difference between mother-love and the (enjoyment) stratagem of self-sacrifice, when he realised that his mother failed to give his father what Lawrence himself was to demand from a woman — strength. Strength for Lambert to get out and grub in the underworld gloom of the pit, because he could come back and take peace from the holy land built between him and his wife. Strength for Lawrence to come to terms with men and the affairs of men. Strength for the women, for it was Lawrence's observation that a woman tears a man to pieces only in a furious reaction to her knowledge that the man has no core, no true purpose, no real strength however fine his facade may be (re Gerald in Women in Love). By keeping each other up each allows the other to be, and becomes his or her own self as well. One theory for the Liberated man and woman completed (Who want's Lawrence's heat passed through Germaine Greer?)
Except that a play isn't a theory. It's a movement. What we see revealed in A Collier's Friday Night is the rhythm of life in the Lambert household. We go out where we came in and what happened in the meantime was so much flux.
I did like Mr Tilly as Lambert Senior. Not that Mr Tilly could give a stuff whether I liked him or not. I liked the way, during the pauses between the dialogue he became, by a series of glances, raised eyebrows, breathings and mannerisms — humiliated, pathetic, blustering, self-pitying, cringing and stubbornly recalcitrant. I thought it was a consummate piece of acting well worth seeing for itself alone. I also liked Ross Jolly's portrayal of Barker (one of the miners) His clumsy embarrassment conveyed itself well.