Mr Ovens By Stanley Houghton

I have recentlybeen reading through the plays of the Manchester based Edwardian playwright Stanley Houghton. Best known for his play “Hindle Wakes” his often uncompromising views on morality made him controversial.

Much of his work is based on generational warfare between parents raised in chapels having to deal with children for whom such a view of the world was restricting. Houghton makes it pretty clear which side he falls on. The controversy over “Hindle Wakes” was caused by the idea that a woman could treat a man the way men treat her. In the play a young couple (including a man who is already engaged to somebody else) vanish to Blackpool for the weekend. The parents of all three of the families involved are scandalized when they find out. Recriminations follow and the young man is told that he will have to break off his engagement and marry the girl he ran away with. He does this but is then told  by the young lady that she doesn’t want him as a husband, that he was just a bit of fun and nothing more. The curtain falls with there being no winners in the story.

His characters are ordinary people in ordinary houses having to deal with very human dilemmas and it is little wonder that he is often seen as a progenitor of the likes of John Osborne and the “Angry Young Man” school of the 1950’s.

But it wasn’t all bleak. He had a taste for farce as well. One of these “Fancy Free” is available (in an amateur production) on Youtube and I will post it seperately.

“Mr Ovens” was one of a series of short prose studies he wrote for the “Manchester Guardian shortly before his untimely death in 1913. I will also shortly be uploading a short story by him as well.


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