The drama, tragedy and unbreakable spirit of a working class community fighting for its future comes to Durham’s Gala Theatre, as the Gary Clarke Company presents COAL on Thursday 10 and Friday 11 November.
This riveting dance theatre show takes a nostalgic but honest look at the hard hitting realities of life at the coal face, the back-breaking physical work and the impact they have on body and soul, both underground and on the surface.
COAL commemorates the 30th anniversary of the Miners’ Strike and reflects award-winning choreographer and dancer Gary Clarke’s own experience of growing up in the Yorkshire coalfields. He said: “COAL is a direct response to my upbringing in the working class mining village of Grimethorpe, South Yorkshire. It’s about trying to capture a time in British history that is too easily forgotten. It is an attempt at keeping the memories of the mining industry alive, an industry that I believe shaped the fabric of our society and how we live our lives today. These communities are at the heart of COAL.”
The piece is based on years of personal research by Gary, including interviews with Anne Scargill, former wife of NUM president Arthur Scargill, and Betty Cook, the founders of Women Against Pit Closures.
The choreographer also spent time with Chris Skidmore of the National Union of Mineworkers, Bruce Wilson, whose diary inspired the book Yorkshire’s Flying Pickets, Barnsley historian and the book’s author Brian Elliott and Paul Winter of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign.
COAL, which has received a Strategic Touring Grant from Arts Council England, comes to the Gala Theatre as part of a national tour. It features 16 performers – seven professional contemporary dancers including TC Howard (acclaimed for her work with Vincent Dance Theatre and Wendy Houstoun) and four local community women, specially recruited at every venue. Performers are pushed to physical and emotional extremes as they perform alongside a live on-stage brass quintet playing music originally devised for the internationally acclaimed Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band.
Providing the distinctive voice of Margaret Thatcher is actor Steve Nallon, still best known for his many performances as the former Prime Minister in long-running cult TV satirical comedy hit Spitting Image.
Audiences are transported to the coalfields through an evocative score of live brass classics arranged by Musical Director Steven Roberts and performed by Chester-le-Street’s NASUWT Riverside Band. Music is combined with a thunderous soundscape by Noise Artist Daniel Thomas and the stage is brought to life with costumes and set by nationally acclaimed designer Ryan Dawson Laight and lighting by Charles Webber.