Close The Coalhouse Door revival will strike a chord says Sam West

MINER DETAILS – actor Adam Barlow
MINER DETAILS – actor Adam Barlow

THE struggles of coal miners, their close-knit community and northern solidarity is not an obvious fit with Surrey theatre-goers. But Sam West says it should be.

The actor turned director currently reviving Close The Coalhouse Door admits his production of Alan Plater’s play celebrating the North East has attracted a bit less praise in the South than in its more natural home north of the Pennines.

“It didn’t do particularly well in London but it should have done!” says Sam, best known for his film role in Howard’s End.

“Although it’s based in the mining communities, there are themes in there that will resonate with anyone.

“Coalhouse is set at a golden wedding – so of course it’s a party to honour 50 years of love and family life.

“But it’s also a celebration of a community – of the North East miners, the stories and the songs that inspired them and commemorated their lives and losses, their victories and their struggle.

“And it celebrates an important principle – that as people we must make and produce things, not just sell things.”

[pullquote]Although it’s based in the mining communities, there are themes in there that will resonate with anyone[/pullquote]

It’s a principle that’s particularly pertinent as the whole nation looks to escape from recession. But Sam, son of acting duo Timothy West and Prunella Scales, adds: “Above all, I want it to be a good night out for audiences. It’s an honour to be working on the material of one of our best-loved writers.”

The original story by Plater – the pen behind TV’s Z-Cars, The Beiderbecke Affair and A Very British Coup – has been updated by Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall, especially as it was created before the critical 1984-5 miners’ strike.

Based on the stories of Sid Chaplin with songs by Alex Glasgow, Close The Coalhouse Door is a musical play which charts the major strikes, victories and disappointments in British mining history from the formation of the first unions in 1831.

The story is structured around music, inspired by North Eastern folk songs of each period.

The cast includes Corrie’s Adam Barlow, Chris Connel, Louisa Farrant, Jane Holman, Nicholas Lumley, Tarek Merchant, David Nellist, Jack Wilkinson and Paul Woodson.

Close The Coalhouse Door will be at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford from Tuesday, May 29 until Saturday, June 2.

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About the Author: Barry Rutter