Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Mining a Rich Vein of Humour to Tell a Northern Classic; Close the Coalhouse Door, at Northern Stage, Newcastle, until May 5

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Mining a Rich Vein of Humour to Tell a Northern Classic; Close the Coalhouse Door, at Northern Stage, Newcastle, until May 5

Article excerpt

IADMIT I wasn't in the best of moods when I arrived at the theatre straight from a long day at the office and soaked by a downpour.

So the fact I was laughing within minutes of taking my seat says much for this confident and capable new production of Alan Plater's 1968 northern classic based on short stories by Sid Chaplin.

We're greeted by the sight of a hulking pithead, boarded-up brick-fronted house and huge poster of Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady, eyes maniacally lit from behind by a miner's torch.

Then those boards are removed and a revolving set takes us back to the 60s, inside the family home of a miner and his wife celebrating their wedding anniversary.

Trying to explain a story which journeys through local mining history - appalling working conditions, strikes and battered pride - doesn't sound anywhere near as engaging as this play actually is.

But here that history is told in the couple's sitting room by family and friends - for the benefit of grandson John (a resentful young miner played by Paul Woodson) - by way of reminiscence, song, music, a ventriloquist's "doll", very funny radio-style report, an Eric Burdon-type band and even a Harold Wilson impersonation.

If that all sounds a bit mad, it certainly is in parts - and the Groucho Marx and kazoo touches were too much for me - but the play is also educational, hugely entertaining, moving and rousing enough to stir local pride.

Original songs of socialist singer-songwriter Alex Glasgow sparkle and the cast, beer bottles in hand as microphones, accompany each other with all sorts of musical instruments.

David Nellist and Chris Connel, on cracking form as staunch union men Geordie and Jackie, are outstanding in a fine nine-strong cast.

For me, they're the stars of the show, with Nellist's Geordie full of jokes and unflagging optimism about stirring the national conscience and Connel's singing of The Socialist ABC and playing their miners' games of unfathomable rules. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.