THERE’S one last chance to see Gary Clarke’s award-winning hit contemporary dance drama COAL this spring as the production hailed by the nation’s critics goes on one last UK tour before heading off to new acclaim in Europe.
The show which brings to life the drama, tragedy and the unbreakable spirit of a working class community fighting for its future has been praised by the critics as “urgent and heroic” and “emotional dynamite” – MAC, Belfast, on March 21 and 22.
The Gary Clarke Company was named Best Independent Company at the prestigious Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards, with COAL also the winner of the UK Theatre Award for Achievement in Dance.
COAL commemorates the 30th anniversary of the Miners’ Strike and reflects award winning choreographer and dancer Gary Clarke’s own experience of growing up in the midst of the 1984/85 industrial dispute as a child of the Yorkshire coalfields, where some of the most brutal and bloody confrontations of the bitter year-long dispute took place.
It is based on years of personal research by Gary, including extensive interviews with Anne Scargill – former wife of NUM president Arthur Scargill – and Betty Cook, the founders of Women Against Pit Closures.
He also spent time with Chris Skidmore of the National Union of Mineworkers, Bruce Wilson, author of Yorkshire’s Flying Pickets, Barnsley historian and author Brian Elliott and Paul Winter of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign.
And now the show which was given four stars by The Times and hailed as ‘both humane and powerfully dramatic’ by The Guardian is back with a string of dates across the country for Spring 2018, including a return to the venue where the extraordinary journey began – Cast in Doncaster!
Starting at the Marlowe in Canterbury in February, the production will then go on to Cast in Doncaster, Eden Court in Inverness, The Byre Theatre in St Andrews, The MAC in Belfast and Brighton Dome Concert Hall.
COAL is then scheduled to make its European debut in May, with plans for more international dates in the latter part of 2018.
And at the same time director Gary Clarke will be developing Wasteland in 2018, the long-waited and eagerly anticipated sequel to COAL, due to premiere and tour UK wide from Spring 2019 – more details to follow.
“COAL is a direct response to my upbringing in the working class mining village of Grimethorpe, South Yorkshire. It’s about trying to capture a time in British history that is too easily forgotten. It is an attempt at keeping the memories of the mining industry alive, an industry that I believe shaped the fabric of our society and how we live our lives today. These communities are at the heart of COAL.” Gary Clarke 2015.
COAL features 16 performers – seven professional contemporary dancers including TC Howard (acclaimed for her work with Vincent Dance Theatre and Wendy Houstoun), a live on stage brass quintet and four local community women, both specially recruited at every venue.
The unforgettable voice the Prime Minister at the heart of the dispute is provided by Steve Nallon, still best known for his many performances as Margaret Thatcher in long-running cult TV hit Spitting Image and here providing an uncanny evocation of the Conservative leader as he recreates her exact words from the time of the strike.
Performers are pushed to physical and emotional extremes, with an evocative score of live brass classics arranged by MD Steven Roberts, a thunderous soundscape by Noise Artist Daniel Thomas and Siobhan McKeown’s shocking short film capturing devastating scenes of the strike in an immersive, accessible and affecting audience experience.
Dramaturgy is by Lou Cope (well known for her work with award winning performers like Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui), with costumes and set by nationally acclaimed designer Ryan Dawson Laight and award nominated lighting by Charles Webber.
COAL combines Gary Clarke’s vivid visual performance style and splintering physical language as it marks the 30th anniversary of the turbulent end of the Miners’ Strike.
What the critics have said:
“An absorbing, immediate slice of history…robust, urgent and heroic…” The Times
“Unquestionably beautiful.” British Theatre Guide
“Coal is contemporary dance that moves grown men to tears…emotional dynamite.” East Midlands Theatre
“Powerful and moving…a thrilling piece.” The Sheffield Star
“A compelling look at the behaviour of real people under political and personal pressure.” seeingdance.com
“A profound and highly relevant contribution to remembering this painful, life changing period in our history.” The Big Issue
“Absorbingly powerful and affecting….” The Herald (Glasgow)
“There is an authenticity to COAL few could match…” The Scotsman
“A profound and highly relevant contribution to remembering this painful, life changing period in our history.” Art Scene in Wales
COAL is co-commissioned by DanceXchange, Cast Doncaster, The Place, Dance City, Dance4 with Nottingham Playhouse, The Civic Barnsley and Yorkshire Dance with additional funds from The National Lottery through Arts Council England, Creative Scotland, Individual Giving through kick-starter and support from The Northern School of Contemporary Dance, the National Mining Museum of England and Scotland and The NUM.