LAND OF OUR FATHERS
by Chris Urch.
Theatre 503 above The Latchmere Pub 503 Battersea Park Road SW11 3BW To 12 October 2013.
Tue-Sat 7.45pm Sun 5pm Mat 12 Oct 3pm.
Runs: 2hr 25min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7978 7040.
Review: Carole Woddis 20 September.
Digging deep into human nature in extremis.
Mining is as integral to the Welsh male psyche as singing. In Chris Urch’s first full length play, we get both and much more besides. Family skeletons unearthed, near cannibalism, entombment, a Welsh Greek tragedy of loss.
A product of Theatre 503’s new writing programme, Urch comes already highly burdened with promise. That Land of Our Fathers does not disappoint is due in no small part to its author’s explosively accomplished script, but also blistering performances from Paul Robinson’s all-male cast. Add to that Signe Beckmann’s glitteringly claustrophobic set and an audience room temperature that coincidentally simulates an underground coal seam with uncanny realism, and a bumpy if impressive ride ensues.
It is 1979, on the brink of Thatcher’s election victory with all the ominous political implications of that era regarding the mining community.
Curiously, the political side is not one Urch chooses to overtly explore. Instead, he digs down into the personal ties that bind, the communal and Union spirit that held miners and their occupation together so fiercely.
Six miners are trapped underground. A roof has collapsed. They are stuck, or at least are going to have to wait for rescue.
Like R C Sherriff’s Journey’s End, Land of Our Fathers becomes a portrait of men under stress, bombarded by fears, with the twist and pull of camaraderie and competitiveness.
It is essentially, as in the best drama, an exploration of personality and Urch has created some unforgettable characters. There is Chopper, the leader – played with extraordinary emotional muscle and presence by Patrick Brennan – a man of gruff exterior and even tougher principle; Bomber, elder statesman of a miner and acidic with it; two young cub miners, Chewy and Mostyn – unkindly referred to as Julie because of his love of Julie Andrews – augmented by Chewy’s big brother, Curly, and the Pole, Hovis.
As uncompromising as Urch’s dialogue – a toxic mix of ragging, insult, confrontation and generational tensions – is his unflinching stare into the abyss when survival instincts take over. An adult Lord of the Flies, the play becomes a moving epitaph for a world fast disappearing.
Bomber: Clive Merrison.
Chopper: Patrick Brennan.
Hovis: Paul Prescott.
Curly: Kyle Rees.
Chewy: Talor Jay-Davies.
Mostyn: Joshua Price.
Director: Paul Robinson.
Designer: Signe Beckmann.
Lighting: Hartley T A Kemp.
Sound/Composer: Simon Slater.
Movement: Mark Conway.
Make-up/Assistant costume: Katie Hodson.
Dramaturgs: Steve Harper, Paul Robinson.
Assistant director: Bobby Brook.
Assistant designers: Lydia Laitung, Andy Pilbeam-Brown.
Assistant lighting: Rachel Bottomley, Beatrice Banyonite.
Assistant sound: Kai Reed.
World premiere of Land of Our Fathers at Theatre 503 London 18 Sept 2013 in a co-production between Theatre 503, Euan Borland Productions and Tara Finney Productions.
Land of Our Fathers was commissioned by Theatre503 as part of 503Five 2012/13.