"Deeply Passionate, Mining Family Drama"
by Arthur Duncan for remotegoat on 25/10/14

Adrian Harris, founder & Artistic Director of Brass Works Theatre on Tower Lane in Warmley, has written another heartfelt stage-drama, acted with committed passion by this young theatre company. Deep Pit is a continuation of Harris's exploration into local histories created by real people who lived in & around Kingswood - an area that today still embraces a mix of residential housing and light industry but was at one time peppered with coalmines.
Harris has based his play on the Crew family. Pitman Jonathan is impressively portrayed with embittered but self-respecting authority by the author himself & his wife Elizabeth, by Anna Mountford who gives a compelling characterization of determined stamina. We meet only one of the two surviving Crew sons. Jack is an energetic sparky lad ready to stand his ground, a role requiring extremes of emotion & engagingly played by Tom Hurley.
His sister, Mary the daughter, alone shows determination to seek another way of life, one she hopes will prove better than becoming a pittance-paid washer-woman & breeder of some pitman's children, as her mother has. This lass is played by Charlotte Christie, drawing loads of sympathy as she becomes the desired object of the coal-mine owner's son. Smooth-talking charmer, Henry is perfectly cast in Guy Warren-Thomas, tall, aristocratic-looking, whose beautifully enunciated speech convinces us he is a gentleman of civilised sensibilities, yet plausibly impassioned by his attraction to Mary ... More on that story when you see the play.
In the middle of the drama, occurs an intense scene down in the mine where a collapse traps Jack with the boss's lackey, Mr Bridges, excellently portrayed by John Conway, who proves doubly versatile by juggling the role of Bridges with Pastor Jeffries. Both these characters pop in & out several times & the two are so clearly distinguished that this reviewer did not realize until studying the programme that both personalities are played by one very fine actor. Finally, an essential addition to the plot is Anthony Young playing Jacob Lacey, a friend of the family who has fallen on even harder times than the Crews. Young brings more pathos into play as he carries a huge burden of emotional angst & self-recrimination for a tragic event. Excellent acting by all and imaginative writing throughout, by Adrian Harris.
All in all, 'Deep Pit' – the name of a nearby, now disused coal-mine, but invoking a personal sort of pit of persistent depth – is a worthy achievement by all involved & a credit also to its technicians & stage management. Especially commendable is Laura Clark for her overall design, faithful to the period with simple furnishings & 'props' & above all for the costumes she has gathered. Every one is attired appropriately for the early half of the 19th Century, contributing authentic atmosphere, as does the 'coal-mine community song' that recurs between scenes, presumably written or revived by Adrian Harris & recorded by a chorus comprised of the company.
Prime-mover for success is Anna Girvan who's direction keeps the story flowing until nearly the end. But if I may indulge in a little 'nit-pick,' I feel the final scene is too static. Several of the cast stand confronting each other in a sort-of multiple 'face-off' as accusations & threats are flung between them. To me, this seemed a lost opportunity for physical interaction, as urged from within the script, which would have avoided the ruffle of discomfort I sensed among some of the audience around me. Perhaps they felt as I did, that the prolonged stillness destroyed the tension that had been built-up earlier. But this trifle need not deter theatregoers who relish reality-based drama.
'Deep Pit' is at Brass Works Theatre, BS30 8XT until 8th November - but why not see it sooner ?

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