Wonderland Review – Northern Stage
Wonderland – A Miners Story
Miners history is something that you’re not taught about when you’re in school and I think unless you have family that worked in the pits or if you’re living in a village that might have been a pit village you’re most likely not to learn about it.
I won’t lie I don’t know a lot of miners history, the most I’ve learnt is from the outdoor history museum Beamish which is in county durham which has recreated a mine for people to learn about pit village and the lifestyle they had but it set in the 1930’s, which is great but it only a small part of the history of miners.
I did a small amount of research about this production because I quite like the element of learning about the production by watching it and reading the program when you arrive.
Wonderland is on its second run after a very successful run in 2018 down in Nottingham. Beth Steel who wrote Wonderland is at the daughter of a Nottingham coal miner and spent two and half years writing this play. She talks about how it is a ‘labour of love’ and involved her going underground twice, doing tonnes of research, speaking to ex-miners and activists to make sure this story was told the best way possible. You can tell through the production the labour that has went into tell this story that many young people of today will never know.
It’s a piece of a production that is meaty and talks about the economy of the time in a way that maybe people wouldn’t want to hear or in a blunt form. The story is told through the miners and the politicians you see both sides of what happened and it was interesting to see story span out and see the fractures within both sides of this story.
Wonderland is set in 1983 outside of Welbeck Colliery, where we meet 2 young minded 16 year old men waiting their new manager who is going to teach them the ropes of the pits. Straight away your thrown into the brotherhood of the miners, the lads banter is laugh out loud banter which will you remind you of someone older within your family that still talks with that type of banter. You see the lads learn the lay of the land from underneath and understanding that it’s hot down there. You see the 6 miners bond over time, with the older miners teaching the younger men not only the way of the pits but the way of life. You see them have discussions of the past and how the miners of the past gave them the opportunity to be here due to them striking for the conditions they are lucky to have now.
While all this is happening, down in London we met an American CEO who was known as The Butcher who is a business man and is brought in to reform the Coal industry. Ian MacGregor comes across as one of those business men who are trying to sell you the dream and within this story you see him having discussions with Peter Walker who was the Energy Secretary and David Hart. They talk about ways of getting round situations involving the pits and the rise in the unemployment due to pits being closed.
The main discussion of the play goes through the Pits being closed and the start of the 1984 miner’s strike. You see the hope that the miners have in their union and in the faith that they are energy of a nation and that will get them what they want. The miners talk about it being a short term strike and the support that the women in their lives play to help them survive through the hardship financially and mentally. The strike ended up being a year long and tore communities apart, with friends falling out with each other due to them having to one of them going back to work against the strike to be able to survive.
Life doesn’t go back to normal once the strike is over and communities don’t just go back to being all sweet like it was before the strike.
Beth’s writing tells the stories of these miners and how their lives changes because of the decisions of the government. Each character at the end tell you a statistic regarding mining strikes and mining as industry with some of them statistics being hard to hear.
I would recommend Wonderland for anyone that loves anything to do with British History, this is a time that I don’t think the youth of today will learn about from school and definitely something I came away thinking about and research more about. Last year’s run saw Wonderland really being appreciated by the ex-mining community, seeing their story being brought to life.
Review Written by Melissa Marshall from www.melissajanemarshall.co.uk