Top positive review
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Drama at its best
on 2 September 2009
It is very difficult to imagine anyone better than Dorothy Tutin playing Winifred Holtby's determined Headteacher. Holtby,a friend and contemporary of Vera Brittain whose " Testament of Youth" was a major piece of work, was a feminist and prolific writer and journalist who wrote for the Trade Union magazine The Schoolteacher and The Manchester Guardian. Dorothy Tutin plays the central character, Miss Sarah Burton, with great conviction. Returning to her native Yorkshire she finds "the winds of change are blowing over the South Riding".She strives with great passion to enable the girls in her school to have ambition ,study hard and fulfil their true potential.
Adapted by Sam Barstow and co- directed by James Ormerod and Alistair Reid, South Riding is a masterly drama. In addition to the presence of Dorothy Tutin, a fine supporting cast including Hermione Baddeley, Judy Bowker( an excellent Midge Carne), Clive Swift and the underated Milton Johns, do full justice to Holtby's most celebrated work. The restrained love that Sarah Burton feels for the aggressive Robert Cairn, whose entrenched views and hostility to change shape his character, is both tender and believable. Nigel Davenport plays the role of Carne with considerable force and feeling.
Winifred Holtby,aware that she was dying, strove to complete South Riding before her premature death at the age of 37. This excellent 1974 production is a splendid adaptation of her much loved novel.