Wonderland. Hampstead Theatre at Home. 6th-12th April 2020.
A Hampstead Theatre production. Originally performed and live streamed in 2014 on The Guardian website
Running Time 2 hours 15 minutes. Review Mark Courtice
The legacy of the miners’ strike remains; the North/South divide, the destruction of communities, the breakdown of trust in our state institutions (including the Police), and eviscerated industry. It’s odd then that this this saggy and often sentimental play, first produced in 2014 seems left behind by history. Here the battle is shown as between the shock troops of the Thatcherite revolution, Energy Minister Peter Walker and Coal Board Chairman Ian Macgregor (strong performances from Andrew Havill and Michael Cochrane respectively), and a group of miners from the Midlands. It’s an unequal fight, and this version fatally fails to hold the union’s bosses to account – we see nothing of Arthur Scargill. There’s an interesting creature called David Hart who runs dark operations for the government; this, despite Hart’s penchant for dressing up, is a subtle performance from Dugald Bruce-Lockhart.
Simon Slater’s music provides a plangent soundtrack of folk inspired songs. The play starts with voices singing in the darkness and ends with blackness again. The mine is a clanging, gloomy hell in Ashley Martin Davis’s girder-built steel set. The light here only shines on the government scenes. The clever creation of the Battle of Orgreave, for example, is a series of gruesome flashes in the darkness. The production is well served by sensitive filming by the broadcast team.
The ensemble is expertly marshalled by Edward Hall and the performances are full of energy. However, the characters often seem to come from the working class theatre playbook (naive youngster, grizzled veteran etc.) so it’s hard to care about individuals.
The miners’ strike affected whole families, but the only voices we hear are male. It feels lazy that the women here (except for Thatcher and Jan Leeming on the news) are just fodder for sexist banter or blamed for pressurising men to return to the pit.
Writer Beth Steel
Director Edward Hall
Designer Ashley Martin Davis
Lighting Peter Mumford
Choreographer Scott Ambler
Sound Matt Mckenzie
Composer Simon Slater
Bobbo Nigel Betts
Colonel Paul Brennen
David Hart Dugald Bruce-Lockhart
Spud Gunnar Cauthery
Nicholas Ridley Paul Cawley
Ian Macgregor Michael Cochrane
Jimmy Ben-Ryan Davies
Peter Walker Andrew Havill
Malcolm David Moorst
Fanny Paul Rattray
Milton Friedman/Chief of Police Andrew Readman
Tilsley Simon Slater