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Lancashire England

An Independent Woman Before Her Time: Hindle Wakes*


*The title’s double entendre refers both to social awakening in the Lancashire town of Hindle and to “Wakes Week,” the seven to ten days when mills and factories would shut down for workers’ vacations.

It’s 1912. Mill worker Christopher Hawthorn (Ken Marks) and his wife (Sandra Shipley) lie in wait for their daughter, Fanny, (Rebecca Noelle Brinkley) to return from holiday in order to confront her. They’re fairly sure the seemingly “good girl” has spent her weekend with a man.

Jeremy Beck and Jonathan Hogan

Mrs. Hawthorn vibrates with fury. How dare her daughter ruin chances for a decent marriage, not to mention the family’s reputation! Actress Sandra Shipley emits the unusual syntax as if born to it. We’re immediately able to guage community values. Vehemence is palpable. Fanny’s father is – tempered. Though the strong-willed, unrepentant young woman at first denies it, truth is revealed through a bizarre coincidence.

The “cad” in question is Alan Jeffcote (Jeremy Beck), son of mill owner Nathanial Jeffcote (Jonathan Hogan) and his wife (Jill Tanner). Nat and Chris (as they refer to each other) rose together from poverty. Despite vast social and economic difference, they remain good friends. Still, status prevents a relationship between the young people. Further exacerbating circumstances, Alan is engaged to Beatrice Farrar (Emma Geer), a union that would further both families.

Jonathan Hogan and Brian Reddy

Chris is nagged up the hill by his wife to address what happened with the boy’s father and secure a promise of marriage. Appalled, Nat vows to “see that she’s (Fanny) treated right.” Plans for his own legacy and that of the business seem dashed by the unfortunate liaison. “Why hadn’t thou the sense to pay for your pleasures?!” he demands when the boy returns home. (You’ll get accustomed to the dialect.) Mrs. Jeffcote puts the blame on Fanny, whom she believes should be paid off. Upward mobility changes people.

Jeremy Beck is thoroughly credible as the egotistical, obtuse young scion. He protests, but doesn’t over dramatize and is perceptibly shocked when things don’t turn out as assumed. Rebecca Noelle Brinkley seems vague in Act I and then sullen, but comes into her own when Fanny finally speaks her mind.

Jeremy Beck and Emma Geer; Rebecca Noelle Brinkley, Jill Tanner, Jonathan Hogan

Jonathan Hogan’s Nathanial is one of the great pleasures of this production. Integrity is not unduly stiff. Nuanced expression and response (he listens) make him compelling. When Mrs. Jeffcote insists Alan didn’t get his proclivity from her side of the family, Nat wryly responds, in pitch perfect tone, “Adam. He got it from Adam.”

The Jeffcots inform Alan’s fiancé and her father, Sir Timothy (Brian Reddy who adds appealing emotional color), and then deal with the Hawthorns. Alan responds to threats. He and Beatrice have surprisingly opposite opinions about what must occur, as, it turns out to everyone’s shock, do Alan and Fanny.

Emma Geer, Brian Reddy, Jill Tanner, Jeremy Beck, Jonathan Hogan

Stanley Houghton’s 1912 play skewers its era’s social mores without proselytizing or cliché psychology. Characters are decidedly multidimensional. Humor and irony arrive impactful as well as entertaining. We utterly believe these people as written and played and are drawn in to what might be hackneyed, but turns out intriguing. A good looking, worthy production of work you’d otherwise never see.

Also featuring Jill Tanner’s realistic Mrs. Jeffcote, Emma Geer, in the role of insightful, if custom-bound Beatrice, Ken Marks’ understated, viscerally pained Christopher Hawthorn, and a self conscious Sara Carolynn Kennedy as Ada, the maid.

Rebecca Noelle Brinkley and Jeremy Beck

Director Gus Kaikkoen astutely defines his characters. There’s some splendid small stage business-like when Fanny wistfully, almost absently fingers the Jeffcote’s fancy tablecloth at a pivotal juncture. Where each person sits when trying to agree on action signals stature and attitude. A sudden, passionate clinch reads real rather than stagey. Detail includes a lovely whoosh when the gas chandelier goes on. Well crafted.

Dialects (Amy Stoller) are for the most part as crisp and natural as they are iconoclastic.

Charles Morgan’s Sets feature ornate, iron ceiling work and rooms framed in dark wood which keep visuals from being heavy while establishing solidity. Change from mill cottage to that of gentry is well executed. Costumes (Sam Fleming) are personal to character, displaying status and taste. Gerard Kelly’s Hair and Wigs credibly flatter. Lighting Design by Christian DeAngelis subtly makes the most of shadow.

Photos Courtesy of Mint Theatre
Opening: Sandra Shipley, Rebecca Noelle Brinkley, Ken Marks

Mint Theater Company presents
Hindle Wakes by Stanley Houghton
Directed by Gus Kaikkonen
Theatre Row, The Clurman Theatre 
410 West 42nd Street