Jack Steele and Family, a Review of the Sheffield Based Play
This month, the Crucible theatre held the world premiere of John Godber’s latest work Jack Steele and Family, a collaborative project between Sheffield Theatres and Sheffield Hallam University.
There has been an enormous amount of hype surrounding this production as it centres on the changes that occurred during the city’s industrial decline. Not only that, the play features drama students from Sheffield Hallam University, causing the production to have a real connection with the local community.
The play opens with caterers clearing away the celebrations of Jack Steele’s 70th birthday, when one of their co-workers arrives late having missed his previous shifts, triggering the cast to discuss the events of the night before. This was incredibly interesting as the young workers navigate the proceedings of Steele’s birthday which sees the family reflect on their own past. The caterers discuss Sheffield’s history whilst inserting a present opinion upon the dramas that unfolded.
The audience experience the changes within Sheffield’s industry through the dynamics between Jack Steele and his family. His sons represent how the transformations within the city have forged two contrasting characters who have responded to changes within their environment in different ways. Chris Steele has used the industrial decline to formulate his own economic success by becoming a property developer, whereas Jack’s other son Nick focuses upon the way in which the steel industry has impacted social classes.
Such a dynamic was an interesting way to discuss the issues surrounding the city’s change throughout the years, and with many references to local Sheffield landmarks the audience were instantly able to enjoy the humour. Godber’s use of Steele’s family as a lens to portray the wider issues that the industrial decline had upon the city is a clever device, as it prompts the audience to reflect upon their own families. This creates a more personal connection between those watching the production and the play itself.
Overall, the production certainly achieved its aim, with performances from Fine Time Fontayne as Jack Steele and Robert Angell as his son Nick being a highlight for the show. The use of local drama students installed a further sense of connection between the city and the production itself, a great premier for a thought provoking play.
The Crucible Theatre, 55 Norfolk St, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S1 1DA