Men Should Weep
Graham McLaren's adaptation has good comedic beats but lacks the necessary tragedy
It does not take much imagination to see that, when it was first performed in 1947, Ena Lamont Stewart’s play would be genuinely shocking. Eight spunky dames and two hopeless men are trapped in a squalid room and kitchen during the 1930s. In the absence of privacy, all dirty linen is washed in public.
For 2011, director Graham McLaren has recreated the over-crowded slum within a shipping container. A strong cast wring all the astringent comedy from Stewart’s well-crafted script, but they fail to contrast it with the necessary tragedy. The men moan about the women while sponging off them. Lorraine McIntosh’s Maggie is a flawed matriarch, indulging her feckless eldest son, ignoring baby Bertie’s heart-rattling cough.
To our contemporary eyes, blonde bombshell daughter Jenny’s desire to leave home is perfectly sensible. Her return, in genuine silk stockings, with a possible solution to the family’s problems, provokes a moral outrage that would not happen now and is not well enough signposted by the characters to stand up. What’s left is a period piece that does little more than remind us that Britain has been broken for longer than we might have thought.
Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, until Sat 8 Oct.