"Mining Drama Could Dig Deeper"
by Malcolm Eadie on 13/07/19

The year is 1943. The government minister Ernest Bevin has mandated a portion of conscripts to sustain the nation’s coal supply. Jim wants to go and kill Germans. He can do the machine-gun noise and everything. However, instead of battlefield glory, the aspiring soldier finds himself down a mine with Billy. Not only is Billy a posh-boy, he also seems to Jim, a little bit fay. To make matters worse, he does not share Jim’s pathological hatred of the Hun. So, the scene is set for dramatic conflict between two individuals who, in peacetime, would probably never have met. Oh, and the Welsh miners do not take kindly to the arrival of these English greenhorns either.

Viv Edwards writes with pace and plausibility, but although this play may one day make a diverting hour on the radio (and I would highly recommend it to producers and commissioning editors for consideration), the piece is far more worthy of the deeper exploration which only a full-length evening in the theatre can provide. In the play’s present form, the emotional journey of the audience feels somewhat rushed and ultimately unfulfilled.

What the cast of two may occasionally miss in the technical delivery of the text, they more than make up for with their total commitment to character. Both David Angland as Jim and Tom Taplin as Billy present totally believable portraits of two young lads away from home, trying to deal with the appalling conditions for which they were never fully prepared. The empathy generated by Angland’s Jim with his realistic black eye and fear of the dark, and by Taplin’s Billy with his stoic genesis giving way to anger for the ultimate iniquity of his situation, linger long after the curtain has fallen.

No designer is credited on this production, but camp beds cleverly double as coal trucks (or “tubs”) for the scenes down the mine. No director is credited either, but there is an assistant director, Benjamin Wong. Leonie Scott-Matthews produces.

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