Undermined

Undermined was going to be called Shafted, but a guy named Godber had already beaten Danny Mellor to it. Both names are clever and set the tone for telling a tragic tale. The miners strike ended in 1985. Danny wasn’t born. Thirty laters he has chosen it as the subject for his first independent production since graduating from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. He comes from Yorkshire.

Danny exerts a powerful presence on a simple darkened floor with just a chair.

For those living in the post Thatcher era the idea of industrial action lasting almost a year and involving some 142,000 strikers is probably inconceivable. For those involved it was painfully real and created enormous political and social division not just in mining areas but throughout the country. Danny has set the politics aside in his one-man performance to depict a year in which friendships and communities were both strengthened and undermined.

In March 1984, the National Coal Board announced that Cortonwood Colliery was to be closed. Orgreave Colliery had already been closed in 1981, though the coking ovens survived till 1990. That land now supports manufacturing, research, commercial ventures and a new community of 4000 homes. Both locations feature in Danny’s monologue as he recreates events and relates personal stories from the accounts of miners. The shafts may have been filled in and the physical history covered over but the memories live on.

It’s the character of young Dale who takes us through his personal story, a lad fighting to prevent the proposed closure of some twenty mines with the predicted loss of around 20,000 jobs. We meet his mates who are involved in the action and go on a sometimes comic ride to Nottinghamshire where the miners were still working because they had been assured by the government that their pits would be safe from closure. We join the pickets lines, hear the shouts of “scabs”, plot against the lorry drivers and meet Eileen dragging her hubby to work and giving a great cue for a song. Back in Yorkshire Billy and Emily are struggling with the arrival of a baby and another tragedy unfolds. Meanwhile the miners and their supporters are branded by the prime minister as the “enemy within”. Soldiers who had fought during the war find themselves facing police cavalry charges and legitimate protesters are beaten down with truncheons.

Danny exerts a powerful presence on a simple darkened floor with just a chair. As he moves around he creates locations, scenes of action and individuals with their own characteristics. His voice is clear and versatile and he uses it fully in regional accents and idiosyncratic speech for the people with whom he engages. Emotionally he gives full vent in scenes of anger and aggression but shows love and compassion equally well.

Through Danny’s moving monologue those who remember or were part of the miner’s strike will be touched by how vividly he depicts the struggle and might even shed a tear. Those to whom it is unfamiliar or just a chapter of social history will have the opportunity to feel what it did to friends, families and communities and they too may shed a tear.

Reviews by Richard Beck

PRINT ROOM at THE CORONET

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★★★★
The Queen's Theatre

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★★★★
The Queen's Theatre

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★★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

'Police Brutality? Money problems? No worries, I've got my mates!' Inspired by the accounts of miners who lived through the strike, Undermined depicts a year where friendships were strengthened and communities came together. Experience the events through the eyes of young miner Dale, as he takes you through his personal story inviting you into the action. This one-man show explores the humour and struggles of the miners' strike through energetic and gripping storytelling. Danny Mellor presents a youthful and contemporary approach to one of Britain's most controversial disputes.