We’re Not Going Back is a Unite-funded, Red Ladder Theatre Company production set during the 1984-5 miner’s strike. The play follows the lives of three very different sisters, who during this time of extreme hardship unite to help support their pit town.
As a northerner who grew up in a pit town and near a mine, which closed down during my childhood, this play sent me back to my roots. It was a testament to Northern sentiments that are innate: the hatred for Thatcher, the closeness of community, and pride in your community.
The focused depiction of the three women’s experience resonates outwards and you gain a sense of the entire movement, Women Against Pit Closures. These women showed courage in taking to the picket lines and speaking out, when many would say it is not their place, and challenging authority to protect their homes and families.
What the play does particularly well is balancing the public activism of the women but also representing how the strike affected their private lives and relationships. Though there are no men on stage they are important characters and the women have to navigate through the strike, their partners and each other during a period of economic hardship and change.
The sisters display admirable strength and independence supporting their husbands, and boyfriend. The younger sister’s relationship is particularly interesting with him being a policeman who faces alienation from the community. The relationship between establishment and community becomes particularly frayed on the one hundred day marker of the strike when police and strikers struggled against each other. We hear about the day’s violence in heart-wrenching account from the elder sister as she watched an unidentified policeman bludgeon a young man as women and men were placed under arrest. It is really of its period and reflects the mistrust and discontent that people, even today, feel with the government.
The younger sister also struggles, at the beginning of the play, to see or feel why the strike has anything to do with her and is reluctant to be involved in the movement. She gradually begins to realise that the strike does affect her and she becomes proud to wear her badge and be involved. This is particularly significant now as many people, and students, do not feel as if politics touches them but we are all affected by what goes on in our world and should get involved.
Images: Red Ladder