A stunning debut play from Chris Urch about a group of trapped miners
This review is of 'Land of Our Fathers's original 2014 run at Theatre 503
This is soul-searching, soul-scorching stuff. Margaret Thatcher is on the cusp of power and somewhere deep down a coalmine in Wales, six men are trapped. Will these miners escape or has the world above forgotten them completely?
Theatre503 has found a special talent in Chris Urch. ‘Land of Our Fathers’ is a blisteringly good debut; witty, smart, brilliantly textured and paced. The dialogue is packed with dirty humour (‘Think of all the potential fanny!’), but also punctuated with instinctive acts of kindness.
Paul Robinson allows the drama to swell gradually amid Signe Beckmann’s cramped and coal-drenched set. The space seems to shrink as the snap crackle humour of the early scenes builds into a screeching fear and rage.
The actors shine – but they’d be fools not to, given this gift of a script. Clive Merrison oozes a crusty grace as Bomber, the reluctant father of the group. Paul Prescott’s Hovis possesses an incredible sunken dignity, which suggests a life of untold hardship. Patrick Brennan’s deputy, Chopper, is thunderingly tough and, when his breakdown comes, it feels like the walls will fall in.
Kyle Rees plays big brother Curly, who is later afflicted by a terrible nightmare. Chicken carcasses burn, moths carpet the ceilings, the sky is painted crayon black and a fat cat squeals in the distance. The fate of these miners may not have been decided yet – but the future looks scary as hell.
By Miriam Gillinson
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I was so glad to get to see this play. Set in a South Wales coal mine, this venue is small and suits the theme. Dark, with dripping water at the end, the actors are both funny and irreverent (disguising affection and fear). I love to hear Welsh singing (half Welsh myself) They sing at any sign of dispair or tragedy. And at joy and cultural events. No one does it better. No self pity. The same with the characters, each one reveals a hidden secret or strength. Survival or death depends on a moral choice. A great play. ps. I do wish that woman in the front row had more respect and not taken out her phone. The screen lit up her stupid face. In a coal mine.