4 / 5 Highly commended for welcome and interaction
Here we go. Firstly, what a welcome – the foyer is buzzing with invited guests, there are miners lamps and dolly pegs on lace cloths on the tables, the bar is open and Theatr na nÓg is meeting and greeting all of us, personally. Delightful.
All photographs by Simon Gough Photography
We are ushered into the black womb of the theatre and the magic begins. And there is magic all right! A young man sits on a swing on a green sward, reciting; a lady walks towards him echoing his words. This is a story of mining, community, family, chapel and ghosts. The ghosts tell their tale – all these folk are long gone but alive to us this night. They tell their story of hopes and fears, of aspirations and loss, through clear direction, straightforward acting and an effective stage set. And with magic.
It makes me sorry that I have not heard of this disaster down a spooky mine part under the sea of the Bristol Channel. It makes me think about the boys and men who worked there and the women who kept the home fires burning. A burning mine too in fact.
The tale is told through 5 characters – some true – a mother, her son, his friend, her brother, his wife and a chapel going gossip. It juggles through truth, fiction and fantasy – diaries, books, monsters and mining reports. It makes us think about the relative powers of the spoken and the written word. What is history other than aversion of events from a point of view?
The classic comedy scene dropped in – the quick change, the drag, the chapel go-ers squashed into a pew and watching us watching them. Joyous!
Magic! Oh the magic makes us jump! Too scary for children? Too scary for grown-ups! We were out of our seats, oohing and aahing as lamps moved, spectres appeared and disappeared, our young hero too.
I love it! And I am surrounded by people who love it too.
Afterwards, there the cast and crew come to the stage and we are invited to ask questions. Typically, the best ones come from the youngsters in the audience. The best replies come from the magician…what ghost?
We pile back into the foyer where there is a miner’s lunch buffet of local cheeses, bread, pickles, bara brith and Welsh cakes; not sure miners would have had the wine options tho. Theatr na nÓg again does what it does so well, talks to us and listens.
A memorable evening for many reasons.
Today, I met a friend for coffee and said this: if you have to choose between a ticket for the opera or a seat at The Ghost of Morfa Colliery, choose the latter.
Coal by critic Helen Joy
Enjoyed: 21st September, 2016, at The Dylan Thomas Theatre, Swansea
Running: September to October for schools, see website for details
Stage Illusionist Consultant
Geinor Styles & Mali Tudno Jones