by Alan Plater based on stories by Sid Chaplin adapted by Lee Hall songs by Alex Glasgow.

Coliseum Theatre Fairbottom Street OL To 12 July 2014.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat 28 June, 2, 12 July 2.30pm.
Audio-described 3 July.
BSL Signed 11 July.
Pre-show Talk 9 July 6.15pm.
Post-show Discussion 11 July.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.

TICKETS: 0161 624 2829.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.

Fine tribute to mining tradition given a resplendent production.
It’s a hundred years since the First World War broke out, and – as the Coliseum valuably reminds us – forty since the battle involving what Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher described as ‘the enemy within’: the 1984 miners’ strike. Alan Plater and Alex Glasgow had written Close the Coalhouse Door years before, but there’s no doubting where its heart would lie in the conflict.

Nor was the 1968 original a typical local documentary, such as was becoming popular in regional theatres at the time. It’s set at a fictional Durham mining family’s 50th wedding anniversary, with reminiscences of mining history in the area sandwiched amid the celebrations, while the family’s two adult sons choose between university and the pit. That choice is the only real dilemma. Elsewhere there may be arguments on the surface, but down-deep the play’s loyalty and love are as clear as in Durham miner Sid Chaplin’s original stories.

It’s warm-hearted and filled with humane wit, though some Right-thinking types might shudder. The real shock come with Lee Hall’s new conclusion, a reminder of what’s happened in an age when all England has fewer miners than lived in Chaplin’s pit village Ferryhill in the 1950s.

Kevin Shaw’s production makes Hall’s point with devastating impact as the cast adopt new roles during the final songs of miners’ sorrow and joy. Till, then, Shaw has rightly trusted the spirit and manner of the play, refusing to invade its integrity with more recent types of stagecraft. Only his repeated use of a sound, resembling the swish of a mine-cable breaking, intrudes (Chekhov had something similar but only used it twice in Cherry Orchard). Otherwise, everything works beautifully, its huddled action full of good spirit and energy.

Thanks, too, to a fine cast. Many of the older characters might have stepped out of a miners’ cage minutes before, none more so than Cliff Burnett’s Thomas – though Burnett also provides fine cameo contrasts as Tory PM Stanley Baldwin.

And Jane Holman’s Mary is outstanding in character, song and dance with an array of detail enhancing the character’s tough vivacity and the situation’s comic energy.

Thomas: Cliff Burnett.
Expert/Vicar: Matt Connor.
Geordie: Phil Corbitt.
Frank: Samuel Hargreaves.
John: James Hedley.
Mary: Jane Holman.
Ruth: Maeve O’Sullivan.
Jackie: Andrew Vincent.

Director: Kevin Shaw.
Designer: Foxton.
Lighting: Jane Barrek.
Sound: Lorna Munden, Adam Eastwood.
Musical Director: Howard Gray.
Projections: Joe Stathers-Tracey.
Choreographer: Nicola Bolton.
Fight director: Renny Krupinski.

2014-06-30 13:16:08

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