The hidden story of the miners’ strikes will be explored in a new show at the Lichfield Garrick.
Tea and Tenacity will bring Tinned Goods to the city next week, with the play promising to show the role women played in this turbulent chapter of industrial history.
Caroline Frewin, artistic director of the company, told LichfieldLive that she was keen to share some of the untold tales with the Garrick’s audience.
“I always thought I knew quite a bit about the miners’ strikes,” she said. “But I didn’t realise quite how powerful the story of the women involved really was – and I certainly didn’t realise how active they were in the strike.
“When I advertised for a script, this one really captured my imagination, partially because it’s a subject matter that’s quite contentious in some places, but also because of the fact it is the women’s story.
“The main characters are really well drawn and it gives you an insight into not only the hardships they went through as families and communities, but actually the huge sense of revolution these women felt about being involved in the strikes.
“Housewives suddenly became activists and it’s quite incredible that this happened for these women.”
Tea and Tenacity are one of a number of emerging production companies chosen for a new Garrick Introducing series.
The programme will look to highlight innovative new work.
“The Garrick have been fantastic,” Caroline said. “Right from the outset they’ve been on board with what we’re trying to do.
“Some venues were very reticent about taking material like this, but not the Garrick. And looking at the sales so far it seems like audiences in Lichfield are supporting it too which is great to see.
“It’s only my second production so I’m learning all the time. I’ve learned about the subject matter, but also dealing with writers. It’s really important that we support new playwrights and give them a platform to share new and interesting work.”
The female cast will be taking on a number of roles in the show, including those of male characters.
But Caroline believes it is important to see strong stories centred around women being delivered on stage.
“It’s really important for me to as an actor who chooses to live in the region because there are fewer opportunities for women than there are men, yet there are more female actors out there than there are men. It’s a difficult imbalance at times.
“I’m so keen to deliver female-driven drama that gives great roles to female actors.
“We do all have multiple roles in Tinned Goods, so we’ll be playing the miners and the police too. It’s quite unusual but the audiences have quickly accepted that.”
Despite taking place three decades ago, the miners’ strikes are still a contentious topic in some areas – something Caroline has already seen in the show’s tour dates so far.
“I’ve learned the hard way that some communities do not respond so well,” she said. “For example, we were recently in Salford and some of the audience told the theatre that they lived through it so didn’t want to watch it played out again.
“But that’s been quite a contrast to Staffordshire audiences who seem to want to see their story told.
“It’s been interesting to see how audiences respond differently to material. Overall, there has been a really positive reaction so far with people telling us we have captured something that hasn’t fully been documented on stage before.
“We’ve virtually sold out a number of shows, including one in Bromsgrove, which is an area we wouldn’t usually expect this sort of story to sell quite as well.”
While some wounds surrounding the industrial action may never heal, Caroline believes there are plenty of lessons people can take from the experiences of the women and men who fought for their industry.
“There’s a few things I want people to take away from the show,” she siad. “One is the theme that women’s viewpoints are as valid as men and that the strike was quite complex. It was about empowering these women in a way they weren’t before the strike.
“But there’s also a sense of the value in unifying.
“From talking to miners’ wives in Staffordshire, it’s clear that the strike divided communities and as much as that as happened and you can’t change that, it is important that communities come together and stand as one. It could be something as simple as uniting because something is being built that they don’t want.
“If communities come together and unify, they have a much stronger way of taking on things they don’t agree with.”
Tinned Goods is at the Garrick on March 31. For ticket details call 01543 412121 or visit the Lichfield Garrick website.