Queens of the Coal Age

Royal Exchange

Until July 28

THE miners strike of 1984 and the subsequent pit closures that followed always stir debate and emotion.

What is often overlooked in the struggle was the part played by women. We now know that miners' wives were instrumental in campaigning against the closures - and taking direct action.

Queens of the Coal Age, written for the Royal Exchange by Maxine Peake, is the true story of four ordinary women who dig deep to protect their community.

Annie, Elaine, Dot, and Lesley stage a sit-in at Parkside Colliery pit in 1993, which was earmarked for closure by the government.

The play is funny at times but also quite haunting as the characters reveal their true selves and what is happening around them.

The stage is transformed into a mine and a lift shaft in which the women are based for most of the performance. The strong story is also helped along with superb lighting, strong choreography and great music.

Directed by Byrony Shanahan, and featuring actors Kate Anthony, Jane Hazelgrove, Danielle Henry and Eve Robertson, the play is a success from start to finish.

The stage is cleverly lit up by miners wearing helmet torches - and the audience is treated to some dramatic light display throughout the performance.

The audience was made up mainly of middle aged people who will clearly remember Scargill's fight to keep the pits open. And the play, particularly in the second half, reflects how working class people took the fight to the government.

It is all about empowerment, passion, belief and strength. It is a great story, told beautifully, about how normal, everyday people, can make a difference.

By the end, the audience falls in love with all four. And do did I.

Craig Archer