REVIEW: Strife at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester

As strike leader David Roberts, Ian Hughes delivers the best performance at the Minerva this season. Picture: Johan Persson.
As strike leader David Roberts, Ian Hughes delivers the best performance at the Minerva this season. Picture: Johan Persson.
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For a play written in 1909, it doesn’t half sound like today; class conflict, an embattled metal industry and strikes.

And the team behind this production made sure to drum home the parallels from the moment it began.

A glowing metal bar emerged from a smoking pit, while an audio montage of speeches and news reports took the audience back in time from the Tata Steel crisis to the early years of the tin industry.

Unlike the Minerva’s previous production Fracked!, which was hindered by its scene changes, this show created drama from them; all stage crew members were dressed as modern steel workers and hoisted the bar, which when ‘cool’ became by turns tables and ramps. The future was constantly in the periphery.

But you don’t come to see a show for good transitions, and thankfully there was plenty to sink your teeth into when it came to the play itself. As the dogged leader of the striking workers, Ian Hughes puts in the best performance at the Minerva this season.

His impassioned speech to his fellow strikers on the snow-covered floor of the tinplate works was like watching fire meet ice. And as the equally-stubborn head of the company, William Gaunt balanced the frailty and power of the aged magnate.

All the other performances served to flesh out this duel, and some of the particularly chauvinistic or classist lines showed the play’s age – but it only added to the uncanny resemblance to today’s social issues.

Until September 10.