REVIEW: ‘Dust’ - Mansfield Palace Theatre

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ONE would be forgiven for thinking Ade Morris’ Dust is a simply nostalgic look back at the miners’ strikes, writes James Savage.

And after realising I was probably the youngest member of the Palace Theatre audience, I was expecting more of a history lesson than a contemporary play, relevant to the present day.

How wrong I was.

The piece is set on the day of Margaret Thatcher’s death, and as you would expect in a former mining town such as Mansfield, there were more than a few quiet cheers from the stalls.

But the essence of the story is contained within a meeting between Arthur Scargill and a former lieutenant from the 1980s picket lines.

I can’t vouch for the likeness but Michael Stroble gives an excellent performance as Scargill, seasoned with humour and a softness probably more representative of the man today than the fierce union leader of 30 years ago.

Lawrence, played by Stewart Howson, arrives at Scargill’s ‘Ivory Tower’ in London to deliver a few home truths about how his son and young family are facing similar upheaval to those effected by mine closures and redundancies.

Lawrence’s son and pregnant wife (Sean Carlson and Alice Barnard) depict the scenario of a council worker made redundant when desperate to provide for his young family. His anger and helplessness at the situation leads to an ultimately tragic end.

The drunk, broken, disillusioned Lawrence delivers many of Dust’s key messages and it is here where we can look at the current state of things and think hard about where we are heading.

When did politics become more important than people? Will anything change as long as we live in a capitalist society? How did the working class become then non-working class?

There are a few dark moments in what is an intense and thoroughly engaging drama but the humour is frequent and clever enough to not leave you felling too depressed.

The main comic relief comes from Scargill’s book publisher Barbara, played by Jacky Naylor, but despite her frosty wit there is the sadness of woman who abandoned family life to pursue a career in journalism.

If the swearing was toned down, Dust would make an ideal history lesson for schoolchildren to learn about the struggles faced by mining communities and how they compare to the problems of the current economic situation.

The second and final performance of Dust is tonight at 7.30pm. For tickets call 01623 633133.