It really was grim up north in the 1930s.
Especially so if you lived in the deprivation ghetto of Hankey Park in Salford, had next to no money and few prospects of getting any because you didn’t have a job.
It was an even grimmer prospect being in love against all these odds.
And that is exactly the message of Love on the Dole, the latest and very gritty drama production from Llangollen Twenty Club at the Town Hall.
Penned by Ronald Gow and Walter Greenwood, it reflects the desperation and frustration of trying to live some semblance of a normal life against the background of an economic depression that was so awful that it makes our own recent recession look like, well, a walk in Hankey Park.
The 16-strong Twenty Club cast tackle this thought-provoking piece with sensitivity and, when called for, displays of real power.
For almost half of them it was their first time on stage but all of the debutantes make a good impression, particularly Louise Bosanquet who does an excellent job with the leading female role, Sally, the real driving force behind the suffering Hardcastle family who provides the cash and the inspiration for them all to keep battling on against unemployment and despair.
Louise looks and acts the part of a stalwart Lancashire lass with a real conviction that belies her lack of stage experience.
There was plenty of support for her in the shape of old hand Chris Sims as her love interest, the somewhat hapless Larry Meath who is ultimately just too good for his own good.
Another Twenty Club favourite Arwel Tanant Jarvis takes the role of the oafish Mr Hardcastle, who can’t quite grasp the fact that economic doom has robbed him of his traditional role as head of the household, doing so with aplomb.
The part of his long-suffering wife is taken by Helen Belton, showing exactly the same flair for hard stuff like this as she did when producing the comedic tour de force of Cybil in the group’s last production of Fawlty Towers.
The interplay between these two actors in one of the final angry scenes is one of the highpoints of the night.
Further accomplished performances come from young Aron Roberts, another stage first-timer who turns in a neat portrayal of the teenage Harry Hardcastle whose formative years are marred by grinding hopelessness, and David Edgar as the flash bookie Sam Grundy whose slimy chicanery makes him odds-on favourite to be a great baddie.
All the supporting cast members are strong and completely believable, as are, thankfully, the Lancashire accents.
Sets are little short of brilliant and the attention given to creating the Hardcastles’ grim kitchen is admirable.
Love on the Dole, directed superbly by Barry Cook assisted by Mike Law who also makes a cameo stage appearance as a drunk, is another very neat piece of drama from the Twenty Club.
It’s been on since Thursday and has its final performance this evening (Saturday) at 7.30pm.
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