Undermined

Danny Mellor

Danny Mellor Presents

Greenside @ Royal Terrace

From 17 August 2015 to 29 August 2015

Rating: ****

Review by Keith Mckenna

Recently, a social worker described special difficulties she had working with small communities in Nottinghamshire.

"Basically they are traumatised by the devastating pit closures. Too many people just have no hope and that has created a lot of social problems."

A tour of Britain would find other communities like that. Pit closures deprived whole areas of their main employment. Without the pits, the young were often left with the choice of the dole or leaving the area.

The actor Danny Mellor whose grandfather was a miner takes us back to the strike against pit closures of 1984-1985 in a fast often funny monologue called Undermined. It centres on the character of the young striking miner Dale from the Cortonwood colliery near Barnsley.

In semi-darkness, a solitary figure sits gloomily at the front of the stage as we file into our seats. The first words he utters suggest a bleak story in keeping with that social worker's description. But then Danny changes the mood, evoking another side to that strike, one that carried hope, passion and excitement.

Danny gives us two main voices in the show. The story opens and closes with the poetic narrator setting the wider picture. The other voice is that of Dale who tells his story confidently with humour and a hard energy you would expect from someone who lives by the danger and toughness of working down a pit.

The story takes us to the police road blocks of Nottinghamshire where miners tried to cross in order to picket out working pits. We hear about the terrible police violence at the Orgreave coking plant. The bruised Dale arrives home that night to find the BBC news showing the events as if the miners had attacked police who then responded with police horses. His surprise is understandable given that the BBC recently admitted that its account and broadcast film footage had reversed the actual order of events.

The show is as much about Dale’s personal journey as it is about the big events. It tells of the friends who grew closer, the long-standing friend driven to what felt like a terrible betrayal and the changing power of women in the community.

This year there are over three thousand shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. But Undermined is the only show at the festival which commemorates the end of a miners’ strike. It is an entertaining show but it is also important because we are still suffering the consequences of what happened in 1985.