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Theatre Review Mining history to mark anniversary of coal industry nationalisation

On Behalf of the People
Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds

COMMISSIONED by the National Coal Mining Museum for England, this production of On Behalf of the People is one of the events commemorating the 70th anniversary of the nationalisation of the mining industry.

Written after extensive research at the museum and in former mining communities, Ray Castleton has created a family drama for The Melting Shop, which wears its political allegiance close to its heart.

The recognisable character types are imbued with just enough humanity to sidestep outright stereotype in a play whose focus is the generational conflict between George Mason (Ray Ashcroft) — a committed union man and Labour supporter who returned from WWI to find that the promised “land fit for heroes” was a lie — and his son Tom (Danny Mellor), a modestly aspirational veteran of the second world war.

It’s the latter’s girlfriend Liz (Lizzie Frain) who's the spark for some of the most interesting scenes, despite her character being the least developed. She convincingly challenges Mason’s uncompromising view about her strikebreaking father and, having enjoyed work opportunities and education during the war, she’s no longer prepared to settle down as a housewife.

The domesticity of the play is accentuated by Charlie Kenber’s unobtrusive direction, which places the audience in a square around the action and peripherally involves them in the wearing of rosettes and the distribution of Labour for Homes leaflets.

That engagement resonates with the bitter-sweet ending in 1947, which sees the family looking towards a better future following the nationalisation of the mines and the anticipated establishment of the NHS.

Tours until July 20, details: themeltingshop.co.uk

 

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