‘Hindle Wakes’ Challenges the Double Standard

Jill Tanner, Ken Marks and Sandra Shipley in HINDLE WAKES by Stanley Houghton, Directed by Gus Kaikkonen. Photo by Todd Cerveris.

A new play from the Mint Theater Company officially opened last week at the Clurman Theatre. Hindle Wakes by Stanley Houghton carries an illustrious background of success with it. Premiering in London in 1912, many critics said it was the best play of the year. Although the play is 95 years old, this marks its first revival.

The play shows an unsentimental depiction of two young people seeking pleasure without commitment. At the time, this sparked moral outrage and was quite controversial. This controversy turned out to be good for business and Hindle Wakes became a hit. The themes in the play still have value today especially with the women’s movement regaining steam. Astute playgoers will recognize a double standard imposed on women in the story. Men can do things that women cannot get away with. However, they will also see heroines who might be considered ahead of their time. These women characters are quite exceptional as they stand on their own and go against the accepted values of their day.

The story centers around life and the people who live in Hindle, a small mill town in Wales.  When the mill closes for a bank holiday, people go away for a few days to resort towns. Fanny Hawthorn and Alan Jeffcote run into each other at a seashore town where Fanny is staying with a girlfriend. Alan takes Fanny to a hotel in another part of Wales for a few days of fun. Both of them are fine with the arrangement despite the fact that they are not married. Also, Alan is engaged to the girl of his dreams, Beatrice Farrar, not Fanny. Fanny and Alan enjoy their time together. When their little vacation ends, they both return to their homes assuming their liaison will remain their secret.

Sandra Shipley and Rebecca Noelle Brinkley in HINDLE WAKES by Stanley Houghton, Photo by Todd Cerveris.

Fanny is immediately greeted by her parents, the Hawthorns, who demand to know where she has really been. Due to some rather sad circumstances, they know that she was not with her girlfriend. When pressed, Fanny tells them about her time with Alan. They are enraged at her actions and determined to do the right thing. This right thing is to get Alan to marry their daughter. Although the hour is late, Fanny’s father, Christopher, sets out to the Jeffcote home to settle the matter. Fanny’s mother is very stern about the situation; her father is more comforting.

As Christopher arrives, some background about his relationship with Alan’s father, Nathaniel, comes out. It seems that they are longtime friends and at one time, were nearly business partners. Now, Nathaniel is a successful mill owner and Christopher is a part of the mill as a worker. Class distinction becomes apparent. However it does not overshadow the sense that both men have of doing the “right thing.” Mrs. Jeffcote is left out of the discussion. The men decide that Alan must marry Fanny.

As the show goes to intermission, it is apparent that a very intense social structure guides the lives of people who live in Hindle. The men make the decisions that adhere to that structure and all are expected to go along with it. It is interesting to note that the married women in the show are only referred to as Mrs. Hawthorn and Mrs. Jeffcote. No first names are used.

The action after intermission shows an entirely different side to this male dominated thinking. Many surprises take place once three women finally become involved. Fanny, Beatrice, and Mrs. Jeffcote all defy the ideas laid out to them. Young Alan still wants to marry Beatrice. She turns him away after she learns of his deception. Fanny announces she does not want to marry him either.  Mrs. Jeffcote supports the young women’s ideas. Only Mrs. Hawthorn is stunned with her daughter’s decision. The strength of the women to stick to their decisions is a beautiful part of seeing this show. More occurs before the ending which is rather satisfying.

Gus Kaikkonen directs Hindle Wakes with great attention to detail and character development. The three women who go against the norm turn in strong performances. This includes Rebecca Noelle Brinkley as Fanny,  Jill Tanner as Mrs. Jeffcote, and Emma Greer as Beatrice. Sandra Shipley plays Mrs. Hawthorn as a bit of nag who wants to see her daughter receive what society regards as the right thing. Kudos to Sara Carolynn Kennedy as Ada, the Jeffcote’s maid who adds some humor to the role.

Jeremy Beck plays Alan as a young man looking for his fun at no expense. His portrayal allows the strength of the women to shine through. Brian Reddy gives a slightly humorous tone to Sir Timothy Farrer as his own indiscretions to the double standard are revealed . Ken Marks plays Christopher Hawthorn with the emotion needed to show a man who tries to bridge the gaps between his family and the social ideas. One of the most fascinating and fine performances is that of Jonathan Hogan as Nathaniel Jeffcote. Mr. Hogan shows a character who is proud of his success but also still sentimental to those people who are an important part of his life.

Information About the Show

Running Time: 2 hours with one intermission
Location: Clurman Theatre, Theatre Row, 410 W. 42nd Street, New York City
Performances: Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 7:30pm with matinees Saturday & Sunday at 2pm. Wednesday Matinee on February 14th at 2pm.
Contact for Info and Tickets: Visit the Mint productions website, minttheater.org