By Ruth Leon
22 Jun 2013
Photo by Nobby Clark
The third member of the gang, Arthur Miller, is missing this month but, if you want a real melodrama, one that could have starred Eugene O'Neill's actor father, you want Rutherford and Son, a fascinating period piece by Githa Sowerby, directed by Jonathan Miller, at the new St James Theatre. In it, a Victorian father who has terrorized his wife and all his children with his obsession with his glass manufacturing business, finds not only that he has alienated all of them but that his business is also in jeopardy.
It was a rare woman who wrote plays in 1912 and Githa Sowerby was just such a woman. Rutherford and Son was an instant hit at London's Royal Court Theatre. Nothing she wrote subsequently approached the gritty realism of her first play, nor its success. She has since become a heroine of the women's movement. Only late in her life (she died in 1970 at the age of 93) did she explain that the character of the father was based on her own grandfather, a cruel man whose sons eventually wrested the glass factory from his control.