The Game

Harold Brighouse
Northern Broadsides
Watford Palace Theatre and touring

The Game publicity graphic

Harold Brighouse (1882-1958) remains the most famous member of the Manchester School of realism, which flourished in the early part of the 20th century, and that is because of one play and one play only, the much-loved Hobson’s Choice (1915).

Brighouse was a prolific writer and at long last his other works are being revived. Earlier in the year The Northeners (1914) was successfully staged at the Finborough Theatre and Manchester Royal Exchange is performing Zack (1920) over Christmas,

The Game, premiered at the Liverpool Playhouse in 1914, has not had a major production since 1977 when BBC2 produced it with a cast which included David Swift, Clive Swift, Louise Jameson, Stuart Wilson and Anne Dyson.

Barrie Rutter’s well-acted production for Northern Broadsides is most enjoyable and deserves to do well on its tour.

A Lancashire Football Club faces bankruptcy. The chairman (Barrie Rutter), a local businessman, sells his star player (Phil Rawson), who is the greatest centre-forward in Britain, to a rival club and then expects him to throw the match so that his old club is not relegated to the second division. But the footballer has principles and refuses. What is the chairman to do? Bribe the referee?

His daughter (Catherine Kinsella) is in love with the footballer. She is one of those ‘new women’ you find in the plays of Bernard Shaw. She is very bossy, sometimes obnoxiously so, and expects her parents and everybody else to do exactly what she wants. She meets her match.

The football star, who wants to better himself and reads Ruskin, Carlyle, Pater and Plato, is tied to his mother’s apron strings and his mother is the sort of mother you might find in a novel by D H Lawrence. Wendi Peters’s mother is more one dimensional but nonetheless formidable for that.

Hopefully, Barrie Rutter’s success will encourage revivals of Brighouse’s other plays, such as Graft (1913) and Gareside’s Career (1915) and his one-acters, The Price of Coal (1917), Once A Hero (1923) and in particular Lonesome-Like (1911), which was his personal favourite and ran for 3,000 performances.

It might also be a good moment to have a look at the plays of some of the other writers in the Manchester School, such as Allan Monkhouse’s Mary Broome (1911) and Stanley Houghton’s The Younger Generation (1912) and The Dear Departed (1908).

"The Game" is touring and can be seen in Salisbury, Halifax, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Huddersfield, Skipton, Scarborough and York.

Reviewer: Robert Tanitch

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