Writer: Neil Gore
Reviewer: Helen Jones
Dare Devil Rides To Jamara was commissioned by the International Brigades Memorial Trust (I.M.B.T.) to commemorate the memories of the men and women from the Manchester area who went to Spain to fight against Franco and the fascist movement which was threatening to overthrow the country.
It tells the story of Clem ‘Dare Devil’ Beckett, a young man from Oldham, who started riding bikes at a young age and became one of the early dirt track and speedway riders in the late nineteen twenties. But the young Clem was a keen advocate of worker’s rights and wrote for the Daily Worker and became a member of the young Communist group. After a few years of racing and various other motorcycle based jobs, his commitment to the cause saw him lead a convoy of ambulances to Spain to aid the fight against the fascist movement, staying to fight and ultimately losing his life on the first day of the Battle of Jarama, just outside Madrid.
Act One of the play takes the audience from the young hot-headed speedway rider, through his career, marriage and up to the point where he meets writer Chris Caudwell and the pair of them set off to Spain with the ambulances. Act Two is much shorter and covers only the two months between them arriving in Spain on the 18th December 1936 and Beckett’s death on the 12th February 1937.
David Heywood takes on the central role of Clem Beckett with an easy charm and twinkle in the eye, portraying the young, confident man, who was ready to take on the world for his beliefs. He makes the man one the audience can empathise with while never losing the underlying grit and determination which saw him give up everything in order to fight for the worker of another country.
All the other characters are played by Neil Gore, who moves from Black Shirt leader Oswald Mosley to mild-mannered Chris Caudwell, through a large number of other roles, with ease and a convincing skill. He also plays both guitar and banjo as accompaniment to several of the songs used throughout, sometimes joined by David Heywood on a second guitar. They use many songs from the era, including Ewan MacColl’s Manchester Rambler to create the atmosphere.
Audience participation is required throughout this intimate production, and the inclusion brings the reality much closer to home. Dare Devil Rides To Jarama takes a snapshot of history and brings it to life, and is a fitting tribute to the men and women of the International Brigade who gave their lives.
Runs until 7th October 2016