REVIEW, The Fight for Barbara, DH Lawrence - Bath Theatre Royal: The life and work of writer DH Lawrence has long held an intense fascination for me, so the chance to see the world's first production of his play The Fight For Barbara promised to be a real delight.

The play is part of the Peter Hall season, running this summer at the Bath Theatre Royal, bringing this legendary director and his distinguished cast together for five very different performances.

The Fight For Barbara was written in the autumn of 1912, when DH Lawrence was living in Italy with Frieda Weekley, the wife of a university professor, and the play recreates many of the details of his tempestuous relationship with Frieda and her family, following her abandonment of her husband.

The play is reputed to be a faithful autobiographical account of that time, but it was not immediately popular and a previous performance in 1933 cut the text by a quarter. Thus Peter Hall's production was the first for The Fight For Barbara at the length Lawrence intended.

The set was simple but atmospheric, with homely Italian cottage furniture and a huge backdrop showing the romantic, misty Italian mountains, where the colours altered to recreate the changing times of the day.

Barbara (Rebecca Hall) and Jimmy Wesson (Jason Hughes, formerly Warren in the BBC's This Life) are making a home together after Barbara has left her husband.

The couple struggle to deal with their own relationship, which is complicated by Barbara's intense feelings of guilt for the pain she has caused her husband and family.

Later Barbara's mother, father and finally husband Frederick come calling at the cottage to plead with her to reconsider what she has done.

Hughes was excellent as the sensitive but dogged working class Jimmy Wesson, though the long dialogues between the lovers tended to become repetitive and Lawrence failed to make Barbara as attractive as she might have been an insight into her more appealing qualities might have helped.

But the play really came to life when the outside characters encroached on the relationship weepy mother Lady Charlcote, played by Ann Penfold, and the stern aristocratic father Sir William, played by Col Farrell.

The penultimate scene, starring the remarkable William Chubb as wronged husband Frederick was the best of all certainly the most felt as Frederick, foolish, repressed and inarticulate, tried to understand why Barbara had left him.

His thwarted love and terrible anguish were passionately and movingly portrayed.

DH Lawrence is known as a novelist first and foremost, and Fight For Barbara had its flaws, but still it was a treat to see such talented actors working so well with a challenging text.

Sarah Singleton