One man, one chair – and a pint of bitter. Three elements which come together, seamlessly, to form the compelling slice of theatre which is ‘Undermined’.
Danny Mellor (who also wrote this play) is Dale, a 20-something miner content in the life he shares with his fiancée in the close-knit South Yorkshire community in which they live. Life is good; he counts his colleagues, Johnny, Billy and Tony, among his close friends and is looking forward to getting married. That is, until the government decides to close the mine where Dale and most of his family and friends work.
Devastated at the prospect of unemployment in an area which has long depended upon the mining industry, Dale and his friends go on strike. “Coal, not dole”, is their mantra: these men want to work and to support their families, not to be dependent upon an uncaring State.
What follows over the course of the next 60 minutes, through a series of anecdotes based upon real-life events, is a devastating portrayal of a period in 1980s Britain that many in the Establishment would prefer to be forgotten. Pint in hand, music from the likes of Billy Bragg and Dexy’s Midnight Runners playing in the background, Dale recounts the triumphs and tragedies of the 1984 Miners’ Strike, in doing so evoking the horrific toll it took upon all those involved.
Family, community, loyalty and friendship are all recurring themes – and the pain experienced by all of the protagonists as the striking miners run out of money and a community begins to turn in on itself is palpable. This play is short, sharp and to the point – and an important reminder of a time in our political history that should never be forgotten.
I must just give Wilton’s Music Hall, where I watched the above, a mention. This Grade 2 Star listed building is the oldest grand music hall in the world – its site dates back to the 1690s. Wilton’s prides itself on presenting a year-round programme of “exceptional live music and world-class productions” (‘Undermined’ certainly falls into the latter category) alongside learning and participation work that engages the local community and schools. It also happens to be an incredibly beautiful building and an important part of London’s theatrical heritage – I urge you to visit it when you get chance.