The Mold Riots

Bethan Marlow
Theatre Clwyd
Mold Town Centre

Kai Owen and Ensemble Credit: Samuel Taylor

Theatr Clwyd has taken a typically bold decision to mark the 150th anniversary of the Mold Riots by staging an ambitious outdoor production that takes you right to the heart of the issues that led to the death of four people in the town in 1869.

The story of the Mold Riots is a sadly familiar one regarding pay and conditions in an industrialising Britain. In this case, unrest at the local Leeswood Green Colliery was exacerbated by the appointment of an English manager, John Young, who seemed to favour English workers over the local Welshmen. A meeting about pay cuts became heated and led to accusation by Young that he had been assaulted and a number of local miners were arrested and put on trial. Their subsequent conviction and sentences led to disturbances as they were being led from the courthouse. For some reason, the local militia were present and they opened fire, killing four people.

Undoubtedly an unsettling, if sadly typical, example of industrial relations and indeed social history at this time and undoubtedly a story that needs to be told. However, the ambitious staging of the production around the town centre of Mold by a community cast of around 100 ultimately proves inspired as the audience is drawn right into the action. Relating an event such as this relies as much on emotion as on narrative and, with the story happening in the dim and distant past, the essence of the story is more important than an attempt at exact historical accuracy.

By moving the performance around several different settings in the town centre, the production engages the audience in an irresistible manner. It is hard to stay detached from the story as you are moving with a crowd of people, a number of whom are actors discussing the events or engaging you in conversation about them. Indeed, so engrossing was the courtroom scene, brilliantly relayed outside the “court” on big screens, that British Theatre Guide had to fight the urge to take a swing at Joh Young as he swaggered past after the laughable convictions.

The final scenes in and around the Church of St. Mary were well played, staying just the right side of mawkishness and a fitting ending to a hugely successful enterprise. Whilst the remembrance of the outrageous events 150 years ago is vital, what is more important is the community coming together in an effort that will live long ion the memory.

Reviewer: Dave Jennings

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