The Collie's Shed

Shelley Middler
Island Life Productions
Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose

Paul Wilson as Glen. Kevin Parr as Billy. Alasdair Ferguson as Tommy. Stephen Corrall as Charlie
John Gray as younger Charlie. Joey Locke as younger Billy. Dom Fraser as younger Tommy. Rory Grant as younger Glen

"Kick Out The Tories" from Harlow punk band Newtown Neurotics sets the scene. Clips of Margaret Thatcher and political commentary from the 1980s pertaining to the coal strike follow. Set in a shed in East Lothian, four retired miners meet with principals versus practicality, like a debating den.

The first half introduces you to the four characters. The unaggressive Glen (Paul Wilson), quiet voice of practicality and reason, returns after 30 years being made shed manager; Tommy (Alasdair Ferguson), the calming influence, grieves for his wife and loss of work; the aggressive, loud, brash Billy (Kevin Parr), who sees Glen as a scab, and the older, ill Charlie (Stephen Corrall), another who speaks for practicality having had a family to support. The play alternates between the present and the past with four actors playing their younger selves. All the actors hold their own.

A review into the policing of the '80s miners' strikes with a potential Miners' Pardon Bill by the Scottish Government raises the past, affecting their friendships and relationships. The flashbacks reveal the sacrifices made and how passionate they were. Their sentiments are repeated a little more than need be, as their feelings are evident early on. However, the opposing sides are evenly stated with no weight coming down on one side or the other. As Glen says, "it was never black and white," and Tom, " you've got to move on"—all easy to say, hard to live with.

Fin Ross Russell, co-founder of Island Life Productions, partnered with young writer Shelley Middler to bring The Collie’s Shed to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, having premièred here last year. Because of multiple changes of location and time, there is a lot of furniture moving in semi-blackouts, not good as it loses flow and concentration. The lighting also falls short at the front of the stage and anyone, particularly Parr, who entered that area was not lit with his excellent facial expressions lost; maybe it just needs the furniture putting a shade further back.

Middler began writing after lockdown stopped her acting and wanted to write about something that meant a lot to her and to her East Lothian community, She says, "it’s a love letter to the people who still experience hardships from what happened due to the strikes.”

This story reflects on UK union culture, relevant in the present climate of constant strikes over the last year and the upcoming 40th anniversary of the Miners’ Strike itself. It certainly is a very promising play and one looks forward to her future work.

Reviewer: Anna Ambelez

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