Queens of the Coal Age at the New Vic is powerful, emotive and resurgent in reminding people about the movement which supported miners and their families during a political shake up. Maxine’s Peake’s play focuses on Women Against Pit Closures and is based on the true story of four women who occupied Parkside Colliery during the Easter Holidays in 1993, in protest at the fresh wave of pit closures.
Within minutes of the play starting the audience is invited to join Anne (Kate Anthony), Dot (Jane Hazlegrove), Lesley (Danielle Henry) and Elaine (Lucy Tuck) as they embark on their mission 2,000 feet underground. Accompanied by Des (John Elkington) who believes he is conducting a guided tour, the four women reveal their true intentions once deep enough into the confines of the pit.
Menacing acts of persuasion to lure the women back up to ground level are dismissed by a united front and Anne, Dot, Lesley and Elaine find themselves alone amidst the darkness and dust of a shabby office.
The seriousness of such a strong message is pleasantly softened by the humour which is prominent throughout. As well as the importance of their mission, conversations lead from one to the next exploring family, life, and casual nods to misogyny and race.
As the days roll into nights, and nights into day, the simplicities of daily life are sincerely missed and tensions begin to rise. But the delightful Michael (Conor Glean) – a young miner – brings life back into the dingy pit office by bringing food and drink supplies as well as added humour – which in turn introduces the audience of the New Vic to a rave – just genius!
Anne, Dot and Lesley are all played convincingly, while credit is an absolute must for Lucy Tuck, who only stood in the shoes of Elaine a little over 24 hours before her performance in the round after illness prevented Eve Robertson from performing.
One particular scene sees Elaine having to remove a certain item from her undergarments and is simply hilarious!
After four nights the women eventually decide to return to reality – excited and nervous about what to expect. A message is delivered to the nation and as Anne would say; “…None of it’s for Nothing!”
The whole production of Queens of the Coal Age at the New Vic, is effective in its deliverance with lighting and superb sound effects all creating the atmosphere needed to portray a message which resonates in society today.
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