Review: Shafted by Marde Hen Productions

Playwright Jeannie Jordan remembers 1984 well not only because it was the year she got engaged but also because of the miners’ strike.

At her local pit Cadley Hill near Swadlincote, like many others in South Derbyshire, the miners continued to work.

Only 12 of the local lads got behind the picket line with thousands of miners bused in from Yorkshire and Wales to fight for their livelihood and stop the mine working.

Now more than 30 years later Jeannie has called upon half-forgotten memories to write and direct Shafted – a play which explores the heartbreak of a father and son on differing sides of the strike.

Paul Greatorex has returned to his father’s pit village home for the funeral of his mother Sylvia and the visit ignites old wounds – his father still cannot understand why Paul defied the local majority and went on strike.

With the present day characters introduced the play moves swiftly back in time so the audience may discover the events which result in father and son being at each others throats – even at such a poignant funeral.

The new play is being staged at the Strutts Centre in Belper, by Marde Hen Productions, a group which exists for the sole purpose of staging plays by new writers.

The simple, yet effective, set designed by Barry Brown makes terrific use of a small room at the community venue, and clever projections and sound transports the audience from Jack’s tiny miner’s cottage to the picket line with ease.

As with the actual miners’ strike it is the women of the family who come across as the stronger characters in the production.

Jane Robertson, as Jack’s wife and the mother of Paul, is very convincing as the loyal woman back at home, fussing over housework and meals.

Her contempt for Paul’s  placard waving, sassy young wife Linda is spot-on and she has some great put-down lines.

Alex Wrampling, who plays Linda, gives as good as she gets in reply to her sneering mother-in-law with a gutsy on-stage performance.

The miners – Paul, played by Wayne Parkin; Jack played by Neil Winfield; Mark Poole who plays Irvin Bearsmore the chairman of the strike committee  and Martin Weston, who is a member of the colliery band – all play their parts with great conviction.

Whether you were around in 1984 or not this interesting play will take you back to those troubled times and the bitterness which still scars the former mining communities today.

Other members of the cast have multiple parts and especially good are Marie Stone and Rebecca Bagnall as policemen and Mark Wilde who is both a police sergeant and Honky Tonk Barry from the gay community.

Sophie Mander and Andrew Barlow are also on the picket line.

The producer is Stephen Lee Rees, lighting is by Richard Platt and the costumes by Ann Taylor.

The play can be seen at the Strutts Centre tonight and tomorrow night at 7.30pm.