Saturday, 30 June 2018


Author Steve F
Licence Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 2.0 Generic

Gary Clarke Company Wasteland 29 June 2018 14:00 CAST in Doncaster

Following the success of Coal which explored the "darker underbelly of the mining industry unearthing the true nature and body wrecking demands of a working class industry now almost forgotten", the Gary Clarke Company is producing a sequel to that work called Wasteland which considers what happened to the coal mining areas of Yorkshire and their communities after the  miners strike of 1984 to 1985. They presented a preview of the show to the CAST in Doncaster yesterday.

The preview consisted of an 80 minute sharing of the work that had been done so far plus a 30 minute question and answer session with Gary Clarke.  The audience who stayed for the Q & A included a row of local schoolchildren, former miners, dancers, musicians, journalists, theatre directors and ordinary members of the public such as me.  Clarke told the audience that the work was very much a work in progress.  Members of the audience were given a feedback form and Clarke took note of the audience's suggestions for improving the show.

Because I was a bit lethargic after my 300 mile trek to Birmingham and back the night before as a result of which I set off for the theatre later than I had attended and congestion on the M62 and A1 I regret to say that I missed the very start of the show.  Gita who arrived a few minutes before me told me that the show opened with a male voice choir and a brass band.  I would love to have heard that for many member of the audience remarked that it was lovely.  I did in fact catch a bit of the music because a trombonist and one or two other musicians were playing in the sitting room of a former miner's home.  The characters in the room were the former miner, his wife and their boy.  The piece focused on what had happened to them and other miners' families in the 30 or so years since the miners' strike of 1984 and 1985.

It was not a very happy story.  There seemed to be a fight between the former miner (Alistair Goldsmith) and his son (Tom Davis Dunn) and at one point another between the miner and his wife (TC Howard). To underscore the point that there was not much else for miners and their offspring to do after the mining industry closed down, much of the action centred on a rave which was eventually broken up by the police.  There was a point when the dancers appeared carrying riot shields painted with smiley faces. There was a lot of very loud metallic sounding music of the kind I can vaguely remember from the era.

The dancers who portrayed the ravers were very impressive. Gary Clarke told Gita that they had been professionally trained in ballet and contemporary dance and some had actually been ravers.  The male dancers were Robert Anderson and Jake Evans and the women were Elena Thomas Voilquin and Emily Thompson Smith.  Some of the dances they perform were very energetic and lasted for quite a time.  An impressive display of stamina and discipline.

There were tragic scenes where the boy lost his money on a horse. There was a poignant scene of his clutching the television.  Somehow we got Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture  and an eclectic collection of other music.  It nevertheless seemed to fit together and whether intended or not the last scene gave an impression of optimism.

Clarke choreographed the show and his dramaturg was Lou Cope. Steven Roberts was the music director. Ryan Dawson Laight designed sets and costumes.  Lighting and projection was by Charles Webber.

Gary Clarke told Gita that the work should be ready to tour next year or the year after and that it was still in embryo.  The audience seemed to like it,  It is supported by the Arts Council and the programme featured the logos of some important venues and companies.  I will report back when I show opens formally.  

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