Writer: Chris Urch
Director: Paul Robinson
Reviewer: John Roberts
Coal – the life-blood of the UK’s energy for hundreds of years. Tirelessly men worked in cramped and dangerous conditions to supply the country with small pieces of carbon that we could burn… history, literally going up in smoke and the mine setting makes Chris Urch’s powerful debut play even more poignant.
As six miners come to terms with being trapped underground following an explosion, tension among the colleague’s start to show. The past is brutally dug up and relationships start to fray as the miners’ situation starts to look grave.
Trying to keep hold of the group’s motivation is Chopper played with real gravitas by Cornelius Booth, he juxtaposes brilliantly with the more calming and older force of nature that is found in John Cording’s beautifully realised Bomber, while the elder generation is rounded up with a colourful performance from Robert Jezek as Polish immigrant Hovis. Younger energy in the pack is found through brothers Curly (a strong figure played by Tomos Eames) and Chewy (played with real pathos by Taylor Jay Davies) and brought by Mostyn played by Joshua Price (who has to be the cleanest trapped minor in the history of mining disasters).
The Playhouse Studio is the perfect size space for this claustrophobic, soul-searching piece of drama. Signe Beckman’s tight, dark and realistic mining cave set giving the six actors a real sense of limited space – throw on top Hartley T A Kemp’s dark and foreboding lighting design and this is a play that wrings out its atmosphere in bucket loads.
But the real star of the show is Urch’s ability to write dialogue that has a sting in its tail and the ability to sucker punch you into emotional surrender. The skill in writing dialogue that flows so effortlessly is a rare ability in a writer and it’s no surprise that Urch has quickly become a young writer to look out for… that said, with this being a debut play it isn’t without fault… it takes far too long for the jeopardy of the situation to really affect the characters and indeed the audience. When it finally comes, it has a real weight to it but it really does make this a production of two very different halves. However, director Paul Robinson succeeds in trying to keep everything on track and brings out well-rounded performances this small cast and provides plenty of haunting moments that will linger for a long time.
Land of Our Fathers is a touching drama and one would recommend booking your ticket now before the small studio spaces the show is booked to play sell out and you miss the chance to catch such a powerful piece of theatre.
Runs until 5March 2016 | Image: Contributed