Wonderland by Beth Steel: Hampstead Theatre at home: until 12th April 2020: 3***: Mark Courtice

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

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