Theatre review - Land of Our Fathers

MARGARET Thatcher effectively destroyed Britain’s coal mining industry so it’s particularly apt that Chris Urch has set his acclaimed debut play down a collapsed mine shaft in South Wales on the eve of her rise to power. Given the recent mining disasters in Turkey and Chile, Land of Our Fathers also has a topical resonance.

An electrical explosion has left six miners trapped underground. As they await rescue, various tensions come bubbling to the surface. Urch perfectly captures the machismo and bluster of the old hands as they attempt to hide their fears from the younger men – Mostyn (Joshua Price) on his first day down the pit and Chewy (Taylor Jay-Davies) who dreams of being an artist and moving with his girlfriend to Hounslow.

We learn about their pasts and hopes for the future and the sheer hard graft of mining. The men sing to keep up their morale, tell jokes and share confidences, but as the pressure mounts their camaraderie begins to sour and allegiances shift.

Signe Beckmann has transformed Trafalgar Studio’s smaller space into a claustrophobic underground vault, cocooned in coal, allowing director Paul Robinson to exploit silence and darkness to great effect.

The play feels a tad long and the pace falters in the second half with too much unnecessary character exposition, but terrific performances from the ensemble cast more than make up for any flaws.

Running at Trafalgar Studios UNTIL OCTOBER 4