Thursday, 3 July 2014

'Wonderland' Hampstead Theatre ****

It's incredibly weird that the British miners’ strike happened exactly thirty years ago and one thinks that a play signifying the struggles between the state versus the union seems rather poignant. Beth Steel’s second play ‘Wonderland’ is a piece of theatre that reminds you of the extreme pressure that politics had on the working class life and it's an emotionally captivating production that can engage with people, even if you were not living or breathing in the 1980’s. In addition to this, the play is allowing you to question whether the government is attempting to help their own people whose livelihoods are at the verge of collapse. ‘Wonderland’ enables you to fully empathise with the striking miners and to oppose everyone in authority, in particular the first and only female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, who still proves that she is “not for turning”. The setting is in Midlands 1984, and introduces us to two young men who hope to make a living as miners, as countless generations have done. Unfortunately their desires are about to be destroyed as the British industries are becoming privatised and soon you will eventually be unemployed, or out on strike. Through impeccable scenic transitions, we are transported to Britain's political home, London where a conflicted Conservative MP, a direct American CEO and a quirky road are planning to fight against the prevailing miners and force them to return to their duties. Steel’s narrative is exceptionally riveting due to the consistent flow from the minute the performance commences through to the finale, which will be tear-jerking moment, even for a grown man. The play instigates that the government will always be the dominant force and that change is inevitable which the working classes will have to do as they are told. I wonder what the Arts Council will be making cuts to this year? The dialogue has any engagement and this was noticeable in the Hampstead Theatre auditorium. The performances by the company of ‘Wonderland’ were portrayed with incredible grandeur. Nigel Betts is wonderful as Robbo, and he appears to be a kind of father figure to the two new recruits and would stand up to anyone who would be troublesome to the mining community, for example the police force. David Moorst is outstanding as Malcolm, one of the two new recruits. I found it increasingly saddening when he's having problems providing  for his wife and baby, and when he considers and eventually massacres his dog, it's a moment that would deeply move you. The Hampstead Theatre's Artistic Director, Edward Hall directs and his work here has been successful in captivating the heart of the mining environment, especially the upsetting moment when we see them stealing miniscule amounts of coal to heat their homes. Ashley Martin Davis’ design is phenomenal as the transformation of the Hampstead’s auditorium into the mine shaft left me fixated and engaged throughout the performance. This is something that one should not give away and for you to witness yourself. The Hampstead Theatre is definitely is proving to be the Off West End venue of the year and ‘Wonderland’ is a beautiful performance and a spectacular experience that one enjoyed immensely.

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