Undermined is a one man show told through Dale’s point of view and his journey throughout the year of the miners’ strike, his community and the clash with the police.
Written and performed by Danny Mellor who says ‘a chair and a pint’ are all that is required to tell this tale.
“I’m from Cortonwood, an ex-coalfield area where the first strike broke out. I’ve always been interested in the strike and the people that it impacted, many still live in my community now,” said Danny.
The play began for Danny as a project in drama school. It was a half an hour show called Shafted.
When Danny decided to develop his play further he met up met up with a man called Bruce Wilson who wrote a personal diary during his time on strike. He documented every day of his life on strike in a book called Yorkshire’s flying pickets.
“I was worried he may not want to speak to me but he was happy to tell me his tale,” said Danny.
“Those who lived through the strike want people to know the truth and it speaks of their generosity. The solidarity of the coal miners is still very much alive,” he added.
Bruce came to see the play and Danny says it was his most nervous performance of his life but that Bruce was very positive about the play.
Bridges the gap
“What makes this play different from others is that it bridges the gap between those who lived through the miner’s strike and those who are maybe too young to remember it or know nothing about it,” said Danny.
“It is inclusive for both audiences and young people have told me that it inspired them to learn more about the strike and the battle of Orgreave,” he added.
Joe Rollin, a Unite organiser and chair of the Orgreave truth and justice campaign organised a performance of the play for his local Unite members and members of the NMU (National miners’ union).
“Danny got in touch with me as he wanted to help the Orgreave campaign,” said Joe.
“We use Barnsley civic hall for lots of our benefit nights so they agreed to hire us the venue free of charge and Danny also didn’t charge to put on his play. On the night we had about 400 people there and raised £1,000 from takings on the door for the campaign,” he added.
Joe also used the evening to do a collection for the Oaks disaster memorial, which was the biggest mining disaster in England. This year marks the 100th anniversary.
“I’d recommend anyone who gets the opportunity goes to see Undermined,” said Joe.
“It’s really amazing and the way Danny manages to catch the strike and the emotions through a one man play is incredible,” he added.
Joe also said the play has a bit of a controversial twist that he thinks people will find interesting.
“It caused a huge debate in the bar afterwards,” laughed Joe.
“I think for me the best part was how Danny managed to tell the story of the strike in such a human way,” he added.
Danny says he decided to make his play a one man show for logistic reasons but also because he didn’t want to over dramatise the story and this way allows the audience to think for themselves too.
“The main lesson to learn from the miners’ strike is to not fight among ourselves and to empathise with each other,” said Danny.
“The media cause a diversion in how they portray news and that can lead us to turn on each other. People need to unite against the true enemy, which was the government at that time,” he added.
Asked how we can learn from the miners’ strike and the awe-inspiring solidarity it created Danny touched on Brexit and the huge divide it has caused across the country.
“We need to make sure we get the best outcome for us all following the Brexit result and we need to move on together. Bitterness doesn’t help anybody, it just makes things sour,” he said.
Danny talked about two miners in Nottinghamshire who were good friends but fell out over the strike when one went out on strike and the other didn’t.
“They healed their divide after the strike instead of letting that bitterness eat them up. We mustn’t fight among ourselves we must empathise with each other,” said Danny.
Whether you are old enough to remember the miners’ strike or not, a political activist or just someone who enjoys a good story, the play has something for everyone.
“This play is not a political manifesto,” Danny reassures.
“It’s a piece of human theatre telling the story of some friends during Britain’s most famous strike,” he added.
Undermined played at the Edinburgh Festival and was followed by a short tour but this will be the first time it is performed in London.
Written and performed by Danny Mellor. Directed by Ben Butcher.
It runs from Tuesday 21 March – Saturday 25 March at 7.30pm. Saturday matinee on 25 March at 3pm.
Wilton’s Music Hall, Graces Alley, London, E1 8JB
Tickets: £8-£20. Box office 020 7702 2789
Book online at www.wiltons.org.uk
Social media: @WiltonMusicHall
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