by Ade Morris.
Universal Arts (Venue 7) 96 George Street EH2 3DH To 28 August 2011.
Runs 1hr 20min No interval.
TICKETS: 0131 226 0000.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 7 August.
Politics with passion, from home abroad at New Town Theatre.
This isn’t the first play linking the late 20th-century miner’s industrial action with the 1926 General Strike that grew from their struggle for improved pay. Foco Novo theatre’s The Nine Days and Saltley Gates was set around the 1972 mass picketing of Saltley coke plant in Birmingham to prevent fuel supply distribution during the miners’ strike
But ‘Miners’ Strike’ now invokes the mid-eighties struggle, when Arthur Scargill battled Margaret Thatcher over planned pit closures. Ade Morris (who developed the idea with Ralph Bernard) supposes Thatcher has just died, and places Michael Strobel’s Scargill with one of the men who went on strike in a flat, where Scargill’s publisher – he’s writing a book on A J Cook, miners’ leader in 1926 – is visiting.
There’s a vibrant argument between Strobel (no impersonator of Scargill, though catching his oratorical manner in the public speeches) and Stewart Howson’s bitter Lawrence. Lucinda Curtis rightly sits outside this as the book’s editor, a reminder of different class perspectives.
John Sackville’s strong in representing a further past, as Cook, and with present day Chris, alongside Alice Bernard as his wife. Morris writes strongly about the strike, Strobel showing a fighter withdrawn from the front-line with age, Howson, in a controlled yet impassioned performance, that the legacy of the strike still beats strong.
The real subject is how the eighties are alive today, and how working-class communities have their own long memories. It’s no wonder – miners’ families said at the time that divisions would last life-long. But so are the politics. Only Barbara ignores this, as she tries to persuade Scargill to refocus his Cook book. At first, reasonably, trying to flesh-out dry politics. But as she persists, it’s clear the politics mean nothing to today’s culture; modern biographies need their sex scenes.
Doubtless her interest in Scargill is in a name that will sell books. But Morris has a searing speech where Sackville, in his modern character, explains how the Thatcher philosophy is alive in the Coalition privatisation debate and the destructive impact this will have on working-people. A terrific centre to a well-argued drama.
Arthur: Michael Strobel.
Lawrence: Stewart Howson.
Barbara: Lucinda Curtis.
AJ Cook/Chris: John Sackville.
Maggie: Alice Bernard.
Director: Ade Morris.
Designer: Libby Watson.
Lighting: Stuart Harrison.
Music: Carl Calow, Ade Morris.
Orchestration/Vocals: Paul Kissaun.
Earlier in the day, I caught two productions in the same complex. One involved a solo performer reading chunks of Lewis Carroll’s Alice books and other works. Apart from a few indifferent songs, most of this was read from printed-out sheets, against black curtains. There was enough vocal characterisation to make the reader valuable at family gatherings, but not, frankly, to justify public performance.
That can’t be said of Theatr Wiczy’s I, The Dictator an hour-long solo (at 2pm, until 28 August) in which Krystian Wieczynski develops an analogy between two small men: Charlie Chaplin and Adolf Hitler. Morally their statures, and political views, were widely different, but physically they also shared a brief moustache.
The differences, and Hitler’s attempt to appropriate Chaplin’s reputation, contain some brilliant images – a piece of film becomes a moustache, Wieczynski shapes his body into a swastika. But, admirable as was his decision to perform in English, the ideas in heavily-accented speech clouded much of the detail. Can somebody invite him back and stump-up for surtitles, please?