Undermined,
Wilton’s Music Hall, London
Author: Danny Mellor
Cast includes: Danny Mellor
Director: Ben Butcher
Running time: one hour
Dates of run: March 21-25

 

Three decades after the miners’ strike of 1984, families in northern England are riven because relatives crossed the picket line.

On the wider political scene, angry, visceral opposition is still in the ascendant and we have no solution when society can’t deliver the most basic of needs to dignify a life: namely meaningful work to provide for a family and for buying a pint down the social on a Saturday night.

Back in the 1980s, the risk was closure of the pits.  Now the questions are whether robots or the fallout from Brexit will destroy our economic well-being, and now as then, the question is: when it’s your turn, will you answer the call?

In a one-man tour de force, actor and writer Danny Mellor relives from the downtrodden miner’s point of view the epic confrontation between Margaret Thatcher’s government and the miners who battled to save livelihoods we now know they were doomed to lose.

Directed by Ben Butcher, Mellor gives a performance with all the sure-footedness the miners might have had when they began their weeks of defiance.

As he inhabits the parts of Dale, Billy, Johnny, their wives and girlfriends, he moves us from laughter to tears and his delivery veers from rapid fire to the powerful pause.

The performance’s authenticity derives from Mellor’s convincing mastery of the idiom of the mining community’s language and thought.

Its tension stems partly from his furious opposition to authority as embodied in the overpaid thin blue line, relishing the prospect of overtime bonuses, and in part from the rift between Dale and his best friend Billy, who crosses the picket line.  In both cases, there is misconception as the press simplistically characterises the miners as lazy and the policing authorities as moral, while Billy has valid reasons for being a scab.

The luxury of the theatre is that we get to understand the wider picture and to forgive.  In real life, the rancour endures.

Barbara Lewis © 2017.