Photo Credit: Hampstead Theatre
Beth Steel's Wonderland is currently playing at Hampstead Theatre. Directed by Edward Hall, Wonderland, set in 1984, tells the story of two apprentice miners who begin their careers down the pit and both young men learn from being a pit man is more than a job with camaraderie and solidarity on offer, essential attributes to the mining life! Simultaneously it looks at the Government whose proposals based on their beliefs on progression and its industrial future triggered the 1984 miners' strikes. The play's attempt is to portray both the parties' viewpoints in a holistically and pedagogically where one would have to rethink to form definitive conclusions and opinions. The play reminds us how the miners' strike 30 years ago changed Britain's political and social landscape forever.
The first act takes the audience inside a miners' pit, cleverly staged by Ashley Martin-Davis. Some of the audience were sat on this incredible set with its metal caged flooring where they would have the feeling of being down the pit with the miners and part of the action. The lighting and sound by Peter Mumford and Matt McKenzie harmonised with the staging and created the stunning effects. The space was used to the maximum in the second act for both parties scenes including the government's reaction to the strike and the disparity of the miners during the strike itself. The space was used incredibly well for each of it make shift scenes and didn't compromise the story told and continuation was ensured!
An exceptional cast performed Wonderland wonderful. The talented cast ranged from the apprentice pit men, Jimmy and Malcolm (played by Ben-Ryan Davies and David Moorst) to the powers of Ian McGregor, Chairman of the National Coal Board (played by Michael Cochrane), and Peter Walker, Conservative Government's Energy Secretary (played by Andrew Havill). Also rest of cast included Nigel Betts, Paul Brennan, Dugard Bruce-Lockhart, Gunnar Cauthey, Paul Cawley, Paul Rattray, Andrew Readman and Simon Slater. The narratives and music accompaniments arranged and played beautifully by Simon Slater cemented Wonderland with a human and humourous touches. The music and songs reminded the comradeship, solidarity and livelihoods among the miners and the communities they live in.
The play raised what the 1984 miners' strike did such as the clashes of power between the Government and miners; the internal power struggles between both parties including the weakened union power due to its issues of the strike in the first place. With the miners there were tests of loyalty, integrity and unity between them. Solidarity was challenged by individuals' beliefs, necessities and desires - individual thought was more on the rise than collective ones. Similar scenarios are seen and felt today. One's viewpoints are different but all can agree that the 1984 miners' strike has changed Britain forever especially its impact on the communities, seems not for the better, and the internal power struggles between the Governments and unions. Norman Tebbit, when referring to the 1984 strike, said that the Government has broken a spell and not just the strike.
Photo Credit: Hampstead Theatre
It's a thought provoking and emotive play excellently performed by the cast and superbly choreographed by Scott Ambler. Wonderland can be wonderfully enjoyed at Hampstead Theatre until 26th July 2014. Tickets can be booked here.
Sources: Wonderland House Programmme, Hampstead Theatre