Saturday, 02 July 2022

Bah gum, times have changed

THE world we live in now is so different from the mid-20th century that it’s easier to count the similarities than the changes.

The Glee Club reminds us of that.

It takes us back to a South Yorkshire mining community in 1962 when coal was still king and pitmen had a complete culture of their own.

The six presented to us have lives and ambitions beyond the pit but not their environment.

By day they dig coal but by night they make beautiful vocal music for no other reason than to entertain themselves and their friends.

Behind this is a jumble of crises either happening or waiting to happen, as in any group of people. This is a stealthily crafted play by writer Richard Cameron who takes us on a tour of the group’s lives with their minor triumphs and tragedies in the first act, then stokes the fires to heat them up in the second.

It’s a slow build but in the end it’s deeply affecting as each confronts their issue and is changed in some way.

One is gay, which in a 1962 Yorkshire mining community might as well make them leprous — that’s one big difference between then and now. Another is slapdash and eventually loses his job. A third is unsettled in his marriage. A fourth has ambitions to be a pop star.

A fifth has a large family and a mind full of prejudice and the last somehow let go of his children when his wife died and never quite reclaimed them.

There are some funny moments in The Glee Club but it’s more of a dramatised historical document because these mining communities no longer exist. They were tough, proud men now consigned to our past.

It’s worth seeing just for that but it’s not a po-faced piece of navel-gazing, it’s two hours of really good entertainment.

Runs until Saturday.

Mike Rowbottom

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