Theatre Review


Home Reviewers






The Finborough Theatre presents

The Northerners


by Harold Brighouse


Directed By Tim Newns


Finborough Theatre


4 April – 19 April 2010










A review by Angus Templeton for EXTRA! EXTRA!


According to the dictionary, Luddite references someone who opposes technological reform or change. In our incredibly quickly upgrading society, calling someone a Luddite is derogatory – it implies they are behind the the times.

Of course, in Harold Brighouse’s play The Northerners, being a Luddite was often a matter of life or death. Being a working class man in the seventeenth or eighteenth century put you at the bottom of society. Most workers were little more than indentured servants to the merchants and masters who ran the country. With the advent of machinery and the industrial revolution, a huge number of people were pushed below the poverty mark, and could no longer afford to feed themselves or their families. The Northerners is about the desperation such men were pushed to, and the reaction of the factory owners who were trying to make a profit from it.

The politics behind this play are a little dated, even though the Luddite movements were the original precursors to the trade unions. If you’re interested in the history of the piece, look up the Peterloo Massacre of 1819 – the events around which this play is heavily based.

I always enjoy watching shows at the Finborough, and this was no exception. The performances all round were excellent, though I’ll particularly mention Laurence Saywood and Patrick Knowles, playing the victim and antagonist of the piece respectively. It Is always a pleasure to watch young actors being able to hold their own against their older more experienced colleagues. It was truly an ensemble cast, and the strength of the writing is such that you see all the levels of society being affected by the politics of the piece, and the action doesn’t follow just one person (though it does linger on Ruth, the weaver’s daughter played by Stephanie Thomas).

Some people may find it hard to understand the accents at times. For the most part, I enjoyed the rich language and cadence, but on occasions when the actors worked themselves up I couldn’t understand a single word of what they were saying. This is more likely to be my problem than theirs, however - I have northern friends who I can barely understand in day to day conversation!

Like many larger theatres, The Finborough runs a Resident Assistant Directors Programme which The Northerners is part of. The director, Tim Newns, has previously been AD on many other shows here, and its plays of this quality which demonstrate just how valuable this programme is in pushing bright new talent to the fore.

This show made me want to find out more about our history, which is the best compliment I can pay it. I spent a good two hours on Wikipedia going into more depth about the times portrayed by the actors. Good theatre will always leave you wanting more, and this show made me hunger for knowledge. If you’re not interested in historical dramas, then rest assured The Northerners is also full of sex and love and violence – a great recipe for a night at the theatre.




Box office:  0844 847 1652

Finborough Theatre
118 Finborough Road, London, SW10 9ED









Copyright © EXTRA! EXTRA All rights reserved



Home Reviewers