THE AUTHOR DH Lawrence was great at portraying strong northern women, says Lynda Baron – and she should know.
The actress who will forever be known to a certain generation as Nurse Gladys Emanuel from Open All Hours has played a lot of strong northerners in her time, ever since she left Manchester 60 years ago to launch her career.
She’s a woman of strong opinions: she hates what has happened to many cities in the north, likening the Arndale Centre in her home city to “a gent’s toilet”.
“So many cities have lost their identity. I think which one am I in now? Sheffield’s done OK, though, with its new buildings and lots of nice squares and corners.”
She is in Sheffield to play domineering mother Mrs Gascoyne in Lawrence’s play, The Daughter-in-Law. It is set in a Nottinghamshire pit village and sparks fly with ambitious Minnie (Claire Price), who has just married miner Luther (Philip McGinley), still firmly tied to the apron strings of Lynda’s character.
The relationship between Luther and Minnie threatens to break apart when one of his ex-girlfriends delivers some devastating news.
Tensions are increased further as the action takes place in the middle of the brutal 1912 national miners’ strike, when troops were sent in.
Lawrence is probably most famous for his novels Sons and Lovers, Women in Love and, most notoriously, Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
Lynda said: “He had a lot to say. He wrote a lot about strong northern women because he knew them. Anybody writing about something they know has got to be good.
“Even though he writes some of them quite hard, he has a sneaking admiration for what they’re doing and why that hardness is too. He doesn’t wrap things up in cotton wool.”
She said that The Daughter-in-Law is not very well known because of Lawrence’s scandalous reputation at the time: “The play is one of his best but it didn’t get a good airing. People thought, ‘We’re not putting any of that on, it’ll be rude’. It is a damned good play being done more and more.”
She said that the play is still relevant today. “It’s about mothers and sons and husbands and wives and mothers-in-law – those relationships that change very little. It’s mostly the same, although the language may be different.”
The actress seen recently on our TV screens in Doctors and EastEnders is still very busy, away from home a lot appearing in radio drama and theatre. She joked: “The cat won’t recognise me”. Lynda still gets a lot of offers to appear in musicals – she was in many big shows like Gypsy and 42nd Street – but says she just can’t manage the dancing these days.
She has just finished doing a TV show where she plays a mad fortune teller on Blackpool pier and recently played the artist LS Lowry’s mum for radio.
Any attempt to wander down Memory Lane is firmly batted away – Lynda said her favourite role is “the next one”.
However, she did reveal that one past role still gets a big response – that of Auntie Mabel in the children’s show Come Outside, where she paired up with a dog, Pippin, to go on adventures in her aeroplane. The show is still repeated on the CBeebies channel.
Lynda said: “She was the nicest person in the whole world, perfect in every way, shape or form.
“I get lots of feedback from children or mothers, who get told, ‘Auntie Mabel wouldn’t do that’!”
The Daughter-in-Law is at the Crucible until March 23.