Tinned Goods

It’s 1984 and the effects of the six-month-old Miner’s Strike is really starting to bite. Mining communities feel they are being “starved” back to work by an oppressive government and living in a “Police State” of abuse by the system. Tinned Goods follows a group of miner’s wives in the lead up to the largest women’s protest march in the UK.

Those lucky enough to catch the 2014 Matthew Warchus movie Pride may be hoping for a similar tale of struggle-over-adversity, especially with the promise of a female slant on this – but it is sadly not of the same calibre.

Sue (Fiona Whitelaw, who is also the writer of this piece), belts out rhetoric as she hammers together protest placards, but has a crisis of conscious when timid neighbour Rachel (Caroline Frewin) offers her bags of food. Rachel’s husband is still working (albeit “just for the Club”), so Sue resists accepting such a tainted gift. Sue’s daughter Bethany (Laura M Tipper) is plucky and has no problems eating “scab” Chicken Stew, probably because she’s having an ill-fated affair with a policeman from the picket lines. The touchstone to all this is Aunt Brenda, played valiantly by a woefully-underwritten Jenny Stokes, who tries to find reason in the starkly binary landscape of being ‘with us or against us’.

Those lucky enough to catch the 2014 Matthew Warchus movie Pride may be hoping for a similar tale of struggle-over-adversity, especially with the promise of a female slant on this – but it is sadly not of the same calibre. The characters, particularly in Act I, are regrettably two-dimensional, lacking the details that invoke empathy. It’s ironic, for instance, that they refuse food from a ‘scab’ neighbour, but are careful to keep their community-organised food parcels under £4 in value in order to still keep the handouts from a government they despise.

Whereas Pride painted sympathetic characters and allowed you to really understand the hardships the miner’s families had to face, Tinned Goods focuses far too often on shouting polemics, leaving little room left in the script to explain why these women were prepared to turn against their neighbours and let their children go hungry.

The staging is austere, with changes of basic blocks and tables covered either with snatches of lyrics from 80’s songs or chants from the picket lines sung by the cast. Lighting cues are limited – apart from some pools of light and one red wash, there’s little beyond general cover to marvel at. Costume design is practically non-existent. Despite the passage of time being indicated on a chalk board hanging from a bin, day-to-day clothing for everyone on stage remains the same. They must have hummed a bit by the time they got to that march in London.

The script – which I assume is partly verbatim – jars at times. At the top of the play, invective descriptions of “handouts from strangers down South” is juxtaposed with “all the support from the South is unbelievable” at the end of the piece from the lips of the same actress with little joining of the dots in between. Aunt Brenda claims she was always taught to respect the police, but at her first encounter she is far from respectful, which makes you wonder what changed her (there is a throwaway mention that she was at Greenham Common, but that raises even more questions about her character and whether she’s the mild miner’s wife done-wrong, or a more prolific activist). Perhaps this is the problem – far too much is left unsaid or happens off-stage. Bethany’s affair with the copper is difficult to connect with when we never get to meet him, let alone given a chance to understand why Bethany would risk so much for this unseen man.

Ending at Ruskin College, Tinned Goods sums itself up in a politicised speech delivered from a lectern. And this scene – although confidently delivered by Rachel as she finally finds her voice – feels like it’s the only point the play is making. Tinned Goods has the potential to be so much more – we want Beef Stew, but on opening it’s little more than Alphabetti Spaghetti.

Reviews by Pete Shaw

The Stage Door Theatre

Marry Me a Little

Apollo Victoria Theatre


Savoy Theatre

Sunset Boulevard

Greenwich Theatre

The Queen of Hearts


Good Grief


Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now



The Blurb

Sue and Rachel have not spoken since the miners walked out three months earlier. With their friendship suffering under the strain of politics, picket lines and principles, forgotten wrongs resurface and loyalties are pushed to the limit. In this tight-knit town, as the miners' wives move from background to centre-stage, can the women find a voice in a battle to save their relationships and their way of life?

Featuring a cast of women playing multiple roles. With its historical context and pacy dialogue, it will entertain and provoke thought in equal measure.

Most Popular See More


From £39.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Phantom of the Opera

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Tina - The Tina Turner Musical

From £12.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mamma Mia!

From £15.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Mousetrap

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Play That Goes Wrong

From £27.00

More Info

Find Tickets