Edinburgh Fringe 2015
This is the story of Dale. A Yorkshire miner who, with his comrades, went out on strike believing that they could not only bring down a Government whilst protecting their jobs. We are taken from the optimism of it all being over in a fortnight through the battle at Orgreve to the dignified return to work and the loss of those jobs.
As a reviewer, there are times when my own interests merge with the topic being explored onstage. I was politically active during the miner’s strike though not on the side of the miners. Later on, in my career, I worked in a small Ayrshire community devastated by that strike. For 7 years I helped educate the grandsons and daughters of former miners. Whilst I do not regret my views of the past, they have radically changed. This is due, in part, with growing up but also confronting the reality of the economic theories that destroyed communities. It is also in part due to the stories of miners much like Dale.
This is a solo show with enough light and dark throughout to take you on a journey that will stay with you; it seeps into your soul. Unafraid to confront the contradictions of a peaceful struggle that ended with blood on its hands this takes you through the entire episode with great tenderness.
That tenderness is always tinged with a degree of bitterness and anger but never anything less than honesty. It’s a compelling performance, part pit poetry, part storytelling of the highest order and intently theatrical. To watch this and walk away without a gut wrenching emotion would be to be totally bereft of empathy.
It may elicit strong emotions but it is not without its subtlety and humour. It has given me a very different reaction to Come On Eileen whilst giving us all another angle on why miners returned to work.
The issue of scab labour is also tackled head on and given new clarity. The return to work with dignity was managed throughout the spine of our industrial heritage at the end of that strike but it has left people unable to talk to family members who went back early. Decent men gave back to their communities who had suffered intense heart ache simply to lose a war. That it was a war is etched on the face of our young performer, trickled into every phrase and smashed through each example of how a police state won the battles and new sets of golf clubs.
I was much affected by this as it spoke directly to me. I do believe however that the young people who stood at the end and who were not even born when this was being enacted demonstrates that it has universal appeal and messages for us now. In the midst of another Tory Government, pursuing a policy of austerity we need reminded that the battles of the past may have lessons for building the communities of the future. Undermined is quite simply the best example of theatre telling a political story without labouring the point which I have seen for many a long year.