City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Dust Review

By Irene Brown - Posted on 08 August 2011

Show details
New Town Theatre
Quidem Productions
Running time: 
Ade Morris (writer and director), Ralph Bernard (producer), Libby Watson (designer), Ralph Bernard (original idea), Carl Callow and Ade Morris (music), Paul Kissaun (orchestration and vocals), Stuart Harrison (lighting), Emily Bull (stage manager)
Michael Strobel (Arthur), Stewart Howson (Lawrence), Lucinda Curtis (Barbara), John Sackville (Chris and A J Cook), Alice Bernard (Maggie)

In 1981, Arthur Scargill was elected as President of the National Union of Mineworkers and this play, the brainchild of Ralph Bernard, is to mark the30th anniversary of that event. Controversially, the play’s publicity exclaims, “It’s the morning of Margaret Thatcher’s death.” While this fictional event features in the play, it is in reality no more than a device to expose the links caused by capitalism and its exponents in the narrative of this tale of two Arthurs, Scargill and Cook, whose stirring rhetoric is brought to life again on stage.

Arthur J Cook, a political hero of Scargill, was the leader of the miners’ union in 1926, the time of the General Strike with his fine slogan, “Not a minute on the day, not a penny off the pay.” Scargill   led the historical miners’ strike of 1984-85 and famously said “The victory of the miners in 1984/65 was the struggle itself.” indicating the spirit of ‘King Arthur as he was known then, but the character also expresses sadness at the lack of the Left‘s unity and how at present it is as if Labour’s history never happened.

 The 'death' itself plays little part save for the odd vitriolic reference to the said Lady. In fact, a comb-over free Scargill takes the news coolly, acknowledging he got no invite and is more concerned with the  Cook biography he was writing with the help of his seemingly live-in publisher, Barbara who argie bargies with him like man and wife.  

The appearance in their lives of former miner, Lawrence Davies, opens up not just the very personal story he wants to tell, but allows the play to expose the ramifications of the changes effected in society since the Thatcher era. Lawrence points out that while Scargill has a daughter who is a doctor, and doctors are always in work, his still idealistic son Chris and his apolitical wife, ironically named Maggie, are affected by current council cuts.  He accuses Scargill of flying the Red Flag from his penthouse while reminding him of the harsh realities of pit life and their impacts on the present.

This is a strong and timely play, passionately performed by the five strong cast who stay  on stage throughout although separated by time and distance in the text,  a metaphor for the connectedness and interweaving of life itself and for these lives in particular.

August 13-14, 20-21, 27-28 at 15.30,  £13 (£11)

August 8-12, 15, 17-19, 22-26, £11 (£9)