REVIEW: ‘Love On The Dole’, Thomas Whitham Sixth Form

FLASHBACK: The cast members of "Love on the Dole". (S)
FLASHBACK: The cast members of "Love on the Dole". (S)

SALFORD author Walter Greenwood’s classic “Love On The Dole” appeared just as relevant and thought provoking as the dark days of the 1930s when it was written, when local teenagers brought it to the stage last week.

The drama theatre at Thomas Whitham Sixth Form in Barden Lane was transformed into the mean living room of the Hardcastle family, just one of the thousands of proud but poverty stricken families who lived in Hanky Park, an industrial slum in Salford where Greenwood was born and brought up.

Whole communities were unemployed, still hurting from the Great Depression, families suffered and struggled and were torn apart. There was unrest and rebellion, but it seemed the rich got richer and the poor got poorer.

Some might say Greenwood’s words are mirrored in today’s society for many people and the Thomas Whitham students really brought the tale of the working class struggle to life in their adaptation of the play.

Director Dave Warren brought out the best in these gifted students. It was hard-hitting, strong and emotional, with love and struggle at its heart, but it also had touches of comedy.

The cast were virtually word perfect, their acting very mature, their timing was spot on and was worthy of a much longer run than two evening peformances.

Mr Hardcastle, a strong proud man played by Jack Herbert, tries to rule his family with a rod of iron but poverty and the daily grind wear him down. His meek wife played by Anna Jeavons is also brought to her knees by the worry of trying to feed and keep her family together.

But it is the two children, Harry Hardcastle played by Mathew Robinson who falls victim to unemployment, love and early fatherhood and the strong-willed Sally, played by Sophie Dand, who are at the heart of this story.

Sally loses the love of her life Larry, played by Luke Crowther, when he is killed by police during a political demonstration. She then turns to local wideboy bookie Sam Grundy a seedy character played by Robert Gray, who can provide her with what she needs - money to lift her out of poverty. Much to the shame or her parents, especially her father who disowns her, she leaves home to make a better life for herself in a heart-rending scene.

I do not want to single anyone out because all these young people performed superbly and I would not be surprised if some of them choose to pursue a career in drama.

Add to the mix the three nosy neighbours, Mrs Bull, Mrs Dorbell and Mrs Jike, played splendidly by Lisa Ashworth, Alicia McClean and Nikki Craig, who turned up at the Hardcastle’s most days with a mix of wit, wisdom and well-timed comedy (and plenty of gin) providing a bit of light relief to a dark tale.

Other parts were played by Jane Chiwaya, Joe Davis, Abdin Khan, Robert Townend, Robert Gray, Alex Caraher, Elliot Clegg, Chloe Skelton and Daniel Stanworth.

In the midst of the depressing Hanky Park streets there is a lovely scene when the two young lovers, Sally and Larry, escape to the country for the day dreaming of the future and a better life. Alas it is not to be and the clouds descend on their day and their lives.

Effective lighting and background music really made the whole story believable, so well done to stage manager Nigel Wilkinson and the whole production team.

It is testament to the depth of this production that Sally Hardcastle’s words – “Love on the dole’s not much fun is it!” – stay with you.

Margaret Parsons