Wonderland review at Nottingham Playhouse – ‘powerful and pertinent’
A native of the city, Adam Penford, the new, youthful artistic director of Nottingham Playhouse, has created a real buzz with his debut at the venue, an aggressive ensemble piece about the impact of the 1984 miners strike on Nottinghamshire’s pit communities.
Wonderland is written by a local writer, Beth Steel – her father worked at the colliery where the play is set, which accounts for the ring of truth about it.
First performed at Hampstead Theatre in 2014, the play makes a similar impact as Alan Sillitoe’s legendary Saturday Night and Sunday Morning did in the 1960s when the new Playhouse opened. People still talk about that one.
Designer Morgan Large has created an impressively authentic coalface, a glistening cliff of mineral against which the cage descends and the iron gantries stand.
There’s eerie stillness and loud explosions. The grey suits and white shirts of the industry bosses – the sharp American, Ian MacGregor (Robin Bowerman) and the plummy David Hart (Jamie Beamish) – are anomalous and the portrayal of their calculated destruction of the industry is chilling.
The choreographed movement, by Naomi Said, and robust singing is capably handled by the all-male cast. The local dialect – a hard one to replicate – is impeccably sustained and the play is laced with humour in the coarse banter of the band of men.
Deka Walmsley impresses as the tough, no-nonsense foreman, Colonel. When he voices the sentiment, “I want to be remembered as a worker and respected for it”, there’s a spontaneous round of applause – and that speaks volumes.