Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Review - Mining depths of despair

THE coal industry has been all but wiped out in Britain and it’s been 30 years since the strike which hastened its decline. But it will probably never die as a symbol of struggle.

The National Theatre of Scotland is the latest to dig the seam of our mining history. They have adapted Joe Corrie’s 1926 play, Time O’ Strife, originally written to help fund soup kitchens during a long and drawn out strike.

No matter what your political view, it would be a hard person who is not affected by this almost completely laughless but engrossing piece. Most plays about mines and strikes focus on the hardship, and family turmoil as some are reduced to blacklegging to avoid death from starvation. We are treated to all of that in this piece as agonies pile up, friendships and more are broken and families are crushed.

Director Graham McLaren brings the text up to date using more modern costumes, folkrock interludes with Corrie’s poems as lyrics, energetic dance and one fascinating effect with a protestor physically reacting to TV news footage before being jailed.

Much of the action is placed before the 1948 nationalisation programme when private owners truly exploited the workforce. But there are references to strikes since then and there is a strong flavour of Brassed Off and Billy Elliot.

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