Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Living life on the coalface

Salt of the Earth

The Grange Players

Grange Playhouse, Walsall


THE joys, heartbreak and hardships of the Parker sisters over 41 years in the Yorkshire mining villages of Upton and South Kirkby are vividly examined in this John Godber drama.

Performed on a stark grey and black set which is used as a modest family home, social club, and even a pit coalface, the play provides a perfect picture of tough but honest toil and family relationships from the time when coal was king to its sudden controversial demise.

Young Harry (Roberto Petrucco) cuddling up to the young May (Fran Richards) while behind is the older Harry (Roger Shepherd) preparing for another ding-dong with the older May (Jill Simkin)

It opens in 1947 before May and Annie Parker marry their miner boyfriends Harry and Roy, and follows their rollercoaster lives, including a bitter dispute and onto the final scene when there is an emotional reconciliation.

Godber draws on memories of his own childhood in the enjoyable play which is impressively directed by Paul Viles, and you can almost taste the coal dust as the action moves from a colliery tragedy to dreams of a better life for May's university-bound son, Paul.

Jill Simkin is superb as May, especially in her frequent rows with husband Harry, graphically played by Roger Shepherd who threatens to walk out and 'swing for you',  but is still there for the couple's silver wedding anniversary and beyond.

They are thrilled when their son makes it to university, but their joy turns to anxiety as the possibility of him looking down on them causes friction.

Gary Pritchard gives a lovely performance packed with humour as their bright boy, and his early experiences of love with first girlfriend, the shapely blonde Kay, are hilarious . . . particularly his fumbles with a bra fastener. A subsequent meeting after she has married another man leads to more vigorous action in the back seat of a car, out of the audience's view if not hearing!!

Harry and May's son Paul (Gary Pritchard) being comforted by his Aunty Annie (Aimee Hal).

Aimee Hall is convincing as May's sister Annie whose husband dies in a pit accident before the miners' strike leads to closures, and she has a blazing row with May after revealing that she didn't vote Labour.

Dexter Whitehead is a hoot in the role of Paul's boyhood pal, Tosh, and there are strong contributions from Tomos Frater (Annie's husband Roy), Laura Nock (Paul's sexy first girlfriend, Kay, and Rosemary Manjunath, the show's producer who also plays the family's neighbour, Mrs Potter.

There's a touch of industrial language in the play, but nothing objectionable, and at one point May raises a smile when demanding 'No bloody swearing in my house'. To 21.07.12

Paul Marston 


Meanwhile a letter from the producer

Paul's review was a fair review in general and it was nice to get a positive review for a production which (as always) has had a lot of hard work and skill put into it from the Director and the whole cast and crew.
I was, however, disappointed to see that two well deserving actors did not get a mention. I appreciate that it is not possible to mention every cast member in a review but I genuinely feel that on this occasion they fully deserve to be noted.
Fran RIchards who played 'younger May' is new to the Grange Players (although she has worked with our companion company the Fellowship Players).
Due to varying difficulties this role was re-cast only two weeks before curtain up and Fran very kindly took on the role at short notice. She has performed excellently and was performance ready after only two rehearsals.
Roberto Petrucco plays the role of 'young Harry' and it is his debut performance with the Grange Players. He has had experience in school performances and with junior musical theatre companies but this is his first adult drama production.
He too took on the challenge and quickly became performance ready. He has been a pleasure to work with and an excellent example of keen and enthusiastic young people who enjoy and want to progress in adult drama and theatre, by learning quickly, taking direction well and becoming a strong and important part of the cast.
Paul gave a deserved mention to Tomos Frater in his review and as Fran and Roberto played equally if not more of a role in this play with equal ability and strength, I found it somewhat disappointing that they were not equally accredited.
The cast of this play (in my opinion) is a very strong one. Each playing a very important part in providing an entertaining night out for our audiences no matter how small their role is. I don't often feel the need to express my opinion in relation to reviews but on this occasion I felt that Fran and Roberto deserved some recognition.
As Paul Marston has said to me in the past, 'Reviewers don't always get it right' on this occasion I think Paul got it mostly right but could have done better.
Yours faithfully
Rosemary Manjunath
(producer - Salt of the Earth - Grange Players)

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