BBC Radio 7, 26-28 September 2009
In Claire Grove's production, Lawrence's novel was rendered as a coming-of-age
melodrama, with Paul Morel (Benedict Sandiford) gradually acquiring sufficient self-possession to cut the familial ties binding
him to his mother Gertrude (Elizabeth Estensen). The novel's working-class consciousness was emphasized throughout; here was
a family steeped in traditional northern English values of kinship and community, where men went out to work down the pit,
while their spouses fulfilled the homemaker's role. No one ever thought about alternative occupations; destiny dictated that
Paul should have followed his father Walter (Clive Russell) down the mine. However Paul proved something of a black sheep
- a delicate child with artistic leanings who, through a combination of stubbornness and dedication, aided in no small part
by his mother's persistence, managed to achieve his aim of becoming an artist. While Grove invited us to welcome his
achievement, she asked us to spare a thought for Gertrude, whose efforts on her son's behalf proved spectacularly successful
yet left her with nothing. Paul went on his own sweet way, picking up and dropping Miriam (Fiona Clarke), while feeling nothing
but embarrassment for his miner father.
However there was something of a paradox here; while Paul regarded himself as emotionally
and sexually superior to his father, Grove showed how both shared the same misogynist tendencies. Women were to be treated
as no more than chattels, serving their every need. Once we had understood this, then Gertrude's plight proved ever more pitiful.
D. H. Lawrence might have titled his novel Sons and Lovers; this adaptation was more about Wives and Mothers.