“We want to move the audience and draw their attention to the injustices” – Strike! heads to the Library Theatre
Set in the fictional South Yorkshire mining village of Silverton, at the time of the 1984/85 miners’ strike, Strike! by Spectrum Theatre takes in the events of the infamous Battle of Orgreave, the impact of that day and the bitter industrial dispute of which it was a key part.
We spoke to Will Green, who plays Paul Turner in the production, about what to expect from a production guaranteed to hit close to home.
First of all, who are Spectrum Theatre?
Andy Gardiner taught drama at Freeman College in Sheffield where they teach young people between 18-25 who are on the autistic spectrum. Prior to Spectrum there was no provision at the college for students to continue performing arts after they left. Spectrum brings together adults, young and not-so young, on the autistic spectrum and others who just want to perform together in a welcoming and tolerant environment. In previous years Spectrum Theatre Sheffield has performed originally written musicals as Shoes and Sterling Silver. The musicals carry poignant themes from local history and are very relatable to the present day.
On that note, what relatable themes can we expect from Strike?
Firstly, the characters are the most relatable. The musical covers a fictitious area called Silverton, which is based on one of the many mining towns that exist in south Yorkshire today – albeit with ex-working mines. Our current cabinet comprises Etonian ‘elite’ who believe they understand the people. The people cannot understand why Jacob Rees-Mogg could possibly think that such a disgusting comment about those lost in the tragic Grenfell Tower fire would even enter his mind. “If you were me, and I were you, do you think I’d see the world the same as you?” is the opening line to one of Ben Barker and Andy Gardiner’s songs which illustrate the boundaries we have in understanding one another. How can we possibly begin to understand what other people think is acceptable when we haven’t seen what they’ve seen or been where they’ve been? Atticus Finch described it as climbing into someone’s skin and walking around in it, Toni Sorenson described it as walking a mile in someone’s shoes. The miners could not understand why Thatcher treated them so harshly throughout the strikes. Thatcher could not believe how those organising the strikes could have such disregard for her authority. Tensions rose and spilled into Orgreave – one of the many pickets which incited violence.
Does the musical include the Battle of Orgreave?
It certainly does. Although Orgreave wasn’t the only picket that turned to violence, it was definitely one of the most brutal. Horses were used to charge into the crowds of miners who were on strike and truncheons cracked heads mercilessly. Real footage from the events of the day will be used on stage to give the audience a taste of the horrifying police brutality that was present at the ‘rout’ of Orgreave.
Tell us a bit about your character, Paul Turner, and how he fits into proceedings.
Paul turner is a journalist, who returns to his hometown of Silverton to report on the strike through use of his local connections. This is for the agency he works for down in London accompanied by his colleague, Jackie. A possible unrequited love interest? Paul returns home to his widowed mother, his old schoolmates and Sharon – his old flame. Paul becomes entwined in the tensions of the strike and things get… complicated, shall we say.
Why is it still important to keep the conversation going about Orgreave?
South Yorkshire Police, accompanied by outside police support, behaved appallingly and put many picketers in hospital with injuries. Such behaviour was excused by Thatcher. As many as thirty-one statements from police all containing the same words were reported from that day. Some argue that South Yorkshire police behaved in the same way at Hillsborough because they knew they could get away with it. The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign wants a public inquiry into the events of June 18th 1984. In 2016, Amber Rudd, Tory Home Secretary, declared the public inquiry not to be in the national interest and rejected this. We want to move the audience and draw their attention to the injustices that affected the livelihoods of communities which relied so heavily on the mining industry in this country,
Strike! runs for three nights – December 10th, 11th & 12th of December – at The Library Theatre in Sheffield’s Tudor Square. Tickets (£10/£6) are available from the Sheffield Theatres Box Office – 0114 249 6000 or sheffieldtheatres.co.uk