Coal, stunning viseral dance at Derby Theatre 9-10 May 2017.

To paraphrase my own review when the dance piece Coal came to Nottingham Playhouse in May 2016: ‘Coal is contemporary dance that moves grown men to tears. It is raw, it is funny, it is full of life and hard graft and it is emotional dynamite. Looking at a day in a coal miner’s life Clarke uses his dancers/miners Alistair Goldsmith, Nicholas Vendange, James Finnemore, Joss Carter, Connor Gill and miner’s wife TC Howard to great dramatic effect.’

As it tours in 2017 it will possibly utilise the skills of different dancers and it will also include the input of several local ladies from each city it visits. By using these non professional women from ex mining communities Clarke and his seven professional dancers give the piece a superlative depth of emotion and reality based on real mining community life. As he says “Those communities are at the heart of this dance piece, just as they were at the heart of the mining industry. I wanted to celebrate them and to proudly create a piece of dance that is properly working class.”

To return to my original review and as inspiration for current audience members to attend and get excited about the piece I will continue with my quote: “In the coal mining scenes the audience get to understand and are uncomfortably at one with the hard labour of the miners depicted through the dancers’ energetic body movements, often shown to be in cramped and dangerous circumstances. The repetitious dance is exhilarating yet exhausting to watch. As an audience member one almost longs for their chance to stop working and grab some snap. The thrilling underground soundscape is created and arranged by Daniel Thomas with original sounds taken from the National Coal Mining Museum for England at Caphouse Colliery.

When Thatcher (Eleanor Perry in a chilling and superbly danced role) haunts the stage there is a distinct chill in the air, appreciably more than we get from any regular panto or stage villain. With the latter the audience generally concede to the fact that it is an actor playing the role and there is a feeling of amusement at their stage villainy. In this show, the sharp stylised dance movements with the familiar faux sympathetic tilt of the head and Steve Nallon’s Thatcher voice over we get a real monster. Even at the rapturous curtain call there is uncertainty whether to applaud the dance image of Margaret Thatcher.

Coal uses a mix of live music from the brass band, classical music, folk song, 1980s pop song, and original music all to extra-ordinary effect. The set is mostly a bare stage with simple props and metal and plastic buckets add practical and percussive notes to enhance the drama of the piece.

Overall Gary Clarke’s Coal is a multimedia dramatic dance production with tremendous clout and a true legacy to the spirit of Britain’s former mining communities. Long may they never be forgotten.”

Phil Lowe

Coal is at Derby Theatre 9-10 May 2017 Other tour dates can be seen HERE.

Winner of 2016 UK Theatre Awards Achievement in Dance

Winner of Critics Circle National Dance Awards

Featuring members of Derwent Brass, who appeared in Derby Theatre’s record-breaking production of Brassed Off in 2015.

Created to mark the 30th anniversary of the end of the 1984/5 British miners’ strike, award-winning choreographer Gary Clarke proudly presents COAL, a riveting dance theatre show which takes a nostalgic look at the hard hitting realities of life at the coal face.

Strong, powerful and emotive, COAL explores the darker underbelly of the mining industry unearthing the true nature and body wrecking demands of a working class industry now almost forgotten.

Bringing together Clarke’s striking physical language performed by a company of seven stunning professional dancers, a local community cast of women and featuring members of Derwent Brass, COAL is an emotional, moving and ever-relevant exploration of community, solidarity and survival.

Recommended age 12+

“Visceral piece of physical theatre recalling the shattering impact of the pit closures in the ’80s”

The Stage

“An absorbing, immediate slice of history… emotional truth that deepens its impact”

The Times

“Unquestionably beautiful”

British Theatre Guide

“Profound and highly relevant”

The Big Issue



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