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Play Reading -
We Love You Arthur
Verdict: 1984 Miners' Strike
Newcastle upon Tyne - The Cluny - 21 March 05 - 20.00 (1hr 25mins)
Two teenage girls from a pit village in County Durham fall in love with Arthur Scargill. They hero-worship the miners’ leader from afar. He is in their conversation more than Madonna or George Michael. They plot to meet him.
The action follows Lisa (Joanne Hickson) and her best friend Julie (Ashlea Sanderson) as they attempt to raise money to present personally to Arthur. Thus supporting the strike – Lisa’s dad (David Whittaker) is a striking miner – and at the same time meeting their hero.
Auntie Dot (Tracy Gillman) – an old lady and best friend of Lisa’s mum – is a natural attraction as she has actually met Mr Scargill. Her dog, Maggie – after Maggie Thatcher because she was a bossy pup and took the other puppies’ milk – gives them an idea. If only they can get this pedigree Staffordshire Bull Terrier bitch to mate, they can sell the puppies and give the proceeds to Arthur. Unfortunately the only suitable dog belongs to the local policeman.
The plot (and the girls’ plot) develops quickly in a number of short scenes. The humour and one-liners are sometimes a little forced but the audience (a full house) immediately express a warm response to all the characters. Lisa is the planner, Julie the follower, as a dog-napping takes place. Soon the dog and bitch meet - to music 'Je T'aime' - and after something appears that 'looks like my mother’s lipstick' it seems they have mated. Lisa’s dad and the policeman’s wife (Tracy Gillman) interrupt the action - up to extra-marital stuff.
Should Lisa tell what she has seen? Her mum is to make a speech at a rally in London on behalf of the miners’ wives. Her dad is seen as a stalwart of the striking community. Maggie has eight pups, but Dot suddenly dies. Her funeral prevents mum making her speech and Julie’s father returns to work - becoming a blackleg.
Lisa has to decide what is really important: her personal relationships or the bigger picture; friendship or the class struggle?
Although the action is slick and quick, a couple of things do not ring true. If Auntie Dot is mum’s best friend, why do they not talk to each other more? (Because they are played by the same person?) And at one point, Lisa’s mum is struck with prophetic hindsight - she talks about the decay of community and rise in crime and drug use if the strike is lost.
An enjoyable evening of a play still in development and heading for Edinburgh in August. Much laughter, characters that come to life - and an end inevitably tinged with bitterness.
Cast Credits: (alpha order): (Cast for reading 21 March 05): Mark Catley – Scene changes and description. Tracy Gillman – Mrs Jackson/Dot/Policeman’s Wife. Joanne Hickson – Lisa Jackson. Ashlea Sanderson – Julie. David Whittaker – Mr Jackson. (Cast for Edinburgh 05): Mark Catley – Scene changes and description. Zoe Lambert – Mrs Jackson/Dot/Policeman’s Wife. Joanne Hickson – Lisa Jackson. Ashlea Sanderson – Julie. John Carter – Mr Jackson.
Company Credits: Director – Mark Catley. Creative Team – Neil Armstrong, Tracy Gillman, Joanne Hickson, Ashlea Sanderson, David Whittaker. Company – Northern Firebrand. Writer – Fiona Evans email@example.com. Funders and Supporters: The Arts Council England North East (www.artscouncil.org.uk). New Writing North (www.newwritingnorth.com). West Yorkshire Playhouse (www.wyplayhouse.com).
Blackbox Arts and Media (www.blackbox.org.uk).
(c) Peter Andrews 2005
reviewed Monday 21 March 05 / The Cluny, Newcastle upon Tyne
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