With Justice for Orgreave being dismissed by the government, the creative media has been using the miners’ strike as a source for new material. These new visions usually come from the perspective of those who witnessed and felt the full impact of what happened, making the audience empathise with the stories the actors’ are playing.
For last few months, I have had the privilege to witness the creation of new play, The Last Seam; the true stories of how the closure Hatfield Main Colliery has affected the mining villages of Stainforth and Dunscroft, even today. When you look at the headlines, from the devastating impact the miners’ strike remains in these two mining communities. With the help of our very own Rachel Horne as co-researcher, scriptwriter Garry Lyons (Heartbeat, The Bill, The Worst Witch) has recognised this and written a powerful piece of theatre to emphasise the perspectives of the villagers themselves.
The Last Seam began with a series of interviews; Garry interviewed local people as a means of source material, listening to the stories of before, during, and after the strike. He had all together 40 hours worth of material. There was certainly a lot of opinions shared and tales that were told!
The next step in the process was narrowing down the stories. Through a long editing process, Garry used five interviews to create a full narrative. Instead of rewriting what people had said, he completely transcribed their words (Yorkshire dialect and all!) This added to the realism of the play, as well as kept the characterisation of the real people Garry spoke to.
Once the first act had been written, the first actor’s meeting was held at the Central Club, Stainforth. The actors had a few hours to read through the script before performing it to the people who essentially created the piece. The hour long act received a lot of positive feedback. From then on, it was all systems go for The Last Seam.
On Thursday 6th April, the first reading of The Last Seam as a full two act play made its debut at CAST Doncaster to a sold out crowd. One of the audience members was none other than former labour leader Ed Miliband, who has strongly made his support known to Garry! I could see the emotion of the play’s impact on the audience. There were moments of sadness, anger and pauses where I could catch my breath; a testimony to Garry work and the actors talent (some of the cast had only just picked the script the day before!)
The plan for The Last Seam for it to grow into a complete performance, and maybe a full tour, which is more than it deserves. The miners strike is a period of history that still dominates the headlines, but it’s definitely time for places affected by it like Stainforth Hatfield and Dunscroft to tell their side of what happened!
Follow the cast and crew’s process on twitter via @TheLastSeam