Great performances and direction in tense story of family conflict at Sheffield Crucible

The Cast of Rutherford and Son at the Crucible, Sheffield. Picture: The Other Richard
The Cast of Rutherford and Son at the Crucible, Sheffield. Picture: The Other Richard

With early lines such as “Being happy’ll make no porridge”, I feared hours of ‘it’s grim up north’ cliches in in Rutherford and Son, the story of an Edwardian industrial patriarch’s family.

However, Githa Sowerby’s script is far cleverer than that and Caroline Steinbeis’ deft direction does it every justice. The performances are all impressive as tension builds powerfully and steadily. 

Rutherford (Owen Teale) dominates and manipulates everyone at work and home. He is willing to sacrifice son John (Ciaran Owens) - who aims to use an industrial discovery that could save the ailing family firm as a means of escape - and daughter Janet (Laura Elphinstone), when she falls for a factory worker below her social station.

Aggrieved working woman Mrs Henderson (Lizzie Roper) and Janet both stand up to Rutherford as his world starts to fall apart, but it’s disregarded daughter-in-law Mary (Damusia Samal) proves his most powerful enemy.

Rutherford and Son runs at the Crucible Theatre until February 23.