DramaNorth East & YorkshireReview

Blow Down – Grove Hall, South Kirkby

Reviewer: Ron Simpson

Writer: Garry Lyons

Director: Tess Seddon

This performance ofBlow Down at the Grove Hall was a fine example of co-operation to produce community theatre. The venue, a simple wing-less, rake-less hall, in a former pit village, does everything in its power to put on quality theatre; Red Ladder supports this production through its touring arm (and, incidentally, runs a stand-up comedy workshop at the Grove); the play is produced by Wakefield Theatre Royal. And, of course, the subject matter is local, Ferrybridge Power Station and its neighbouring town of Knottingley.

The result is a piece that speaks directly to its audience: when one of the cast says, “Do you remember…?” a rustle runs round the audience. In truth Garry Lyons’ script switches gear and changes tack a little too often, but the conviction of the writing and the excellence of all five actors make for a consistently enjoyable and thought-provoking piece.

The set is simple – and unexpected. Curtains are hung behind a limited acting area (one or two amusing pop-outs later) with projections of Ferrybridge on them, a drum kit sits centre stage, with four chairs at the front of the acting area. A pattern of lights over and around the stage is used most effectively by Lighting Designer Jodie Underwood.

Essentially the play depends on the memories of Ferrybridge/Knottingley by a Power Worker (Matthew Booth). a Glassworker at Jackson’s/Rockware (Matthew Bugg), two wives who came from Fife with their husbands when the Fife pits closed (Allison Saxton and Nicky Filshie) and a maverick drummer/scaffolder/drone pilot (Luke Adamson).

Adamson’s testimony is slightly at odds with the other four: always active, diagnosed as bipolar in middle age, he cannot understand people whose lives crumble with the loss of a job. He also supplies a meaty drum beat to his own and other people’s reminiscences.

The show begins with reactions to the famous collapse of the towers, but the real focus is the disappearance of community life in Knottingley. Booth makes no play with emotionalism, delivers plainly a plain text about adventure and potential disaster and is all the more moving when describing his sense of loss when Ferrybridge closed. Bugg has a disaster of his own to describe, but has fewer stories to tell, and ends up neatly characterising a councillor and a club steward, as well as supplying a Scots fiddle accompaniment to a song and dance by Saxton and Filshie. They are perhaps the major delight of the evening, full of memories of squabbling with the Yorkies, nights out at the SYD Club (and getting barred), all delivered in overlapping torrents of words, and finishing off exuberantly dancing a reel (or was it a jig?).

At the end of the evening, despite Adamson’s perpetual pursuit of excitement, we are left, in Tess Seddon’s focussed production, with a sense of Knottingley as Forgottenley, bereft of library, swimming pool, sports centre and so on, acres of houses looking inwards.

Reviewed on 17th February 2023. Touring Yorkshire and the North.

The Reviews Hub Score

Enjoyable, thought-provoking

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The Reviews Hub - Yorkshire & North East

The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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