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What a month for the theatre!

I am very spoiled, I decided, as I went from stage to stage last week seeing an amazing range of productions from our finest theatres in the south.

First off was Abigail’s Party at Richmond Theatre - Lindsay Posner’s revival comes with all the fizz, fun and embarrassment of a glass of Babycham on a warm night in Suburbia. I was nervous about seeing it – the original version of Mike Leigh’s excruciating social comedy with Alison Steadman will haunt everyone for ever (in a nice way of course) – but Hannah Waterman was fantastic as the awful Beverley and the men with their facial hair and terrible brown suits are perfect pathetic counterpoints. The tragedy was poignant and well done. I am only sorry it was only in Richmond for a week but catch it when you can cos it’s touring now (

The Winslow Boy at the Old Vic starring Henry Goodman is also a triumph (as a Rattigan fan, even I had forgotten how funny this 1946 play is). It should not be funny, concerning itself with the accusation of theft which brings disgrace on a pre-war family. Mum, Grace Winslow, played by the formidable Deborah Findlay, deserves top billing as far as I am concerned, outplaying Mr Goodman as the father, while Violet the maid (Wendy  Nottingham) adds greatly to the fun and plays a key role as the cockney chorus describing off stage events with a wonderful spin. The relationship between father and son, and father and daughter is excellently played out – and the deterioration of the family standards and quality of life palpable. A must for any Rattigan fan, British theatre at its most excellent. It’s booking until 25 May so go and see it!

Finally Rutherford & Son at the Rose was a brilliant production, directed by the great Jonathan Miller, adapted by the talented writer Blake Morrison and starring Northern Broadsides founder and artistic director Barrie Rutter. For me, bringing together such a trio talents is a hat-trick. Rutherford & Son is Githa Sowerby’s best known play – she was a playwright whose work has more or less disappeared from public view. However by showing Rutherford at the Rose, and recently her play The Stepmother at the Orange Tree, our local theatres can be thanked for sparking off something of a revival in her work. As you would expect from Northern Broadsides, the production was hard-hitting, conveying really tough messages in a hard world, and so visually and socially acute it’s like looking at a painting. Rutter plays a tyrannical patriarch in whose mouth the words ‘thank you kindly’ sound like a threat; he cares only for his business, Rutherford, and nothing for his family. The utter ruthlessness of the man – and the society he lives in – comes out at the end as he strikes a terrible bargain with his daughter in law. Astonishing stuff and also on tour (

Sarah Hodgson is Editor-in-Chief at Time & Leisure Media Group