Wonderland Reviews

We all stand together
We all stand together,
Picking away in the mines,
No light to see each other’s faces,
But the smiles provide the light.
We all stand together,
Even when times are hard,
The children get no Christmas presents,
There’s no money for luxuries like that.
We all stand together,
But the cracks are beginning to show,
The arguing turns to violence,
And the scabs go back below.
We don’t stand together,
No not anymore,
We are split,
Those on the picket line, and those back down below.
Old friends are new foes,
Separated with a picket line and the met police,
Batons throwing down a storm of blows.
We stand together again,
Picking away in the mines,
No smiles here today,
Just darkness and endless time.
- Kristina Gresty

Wonderful Wonderland

Wonderland explores both the emotional and physical struggle of being a miner at such a chaotic time, a time where proud men were forced to choose between staying loyal to their fellow workers at the picket line, or choose to be a ‘scab’ to provide for their families. Yet despite the deeply serious subject matter, a poignant aspect of this play is the humour it involves. Not only does it provide a raw insight into the life of a miner and the devastation inflicted upon Nottinghamshire in the 1980’s, the camaraderie and pure endurance of these men is really manifested, most particularly in their sense of humour and the unique outbursts of song.

This review would be lacking if I didn’t mention the amazing authenticity of the set. Obviously, it is so difficult to create a scene which replicates the gruelling environment the miners actually had to work in, with limited facilities and money, this artistic portrayal of the underground proves to be very powerful.
What I found particularly striking was the battle between corporate and the working class, with the Tory government seen to be making their deals in the setting of the mine, the invasion of corruption was very significant. This provoked a sense of discomfort for me, as this was the space the miners, who we got to know and love, had to work in and it was being attacked by the bigots. But nevertheless, this was necessary and extremely thought-provoking.
It is fair to say that this play is extremely stylistic, not only in the set design but in its musicality, this was one of my favourite elements of the play, I loved the spontaneous bursts into song, which really captured the community of the miners.

For his first show as artistic director, Adam Penford did not disappoint. The whole performance from every character was impeccable, it was evident that each action and word had been seriously thought through.

The script from Beth Steel, a local writer and daughter of a miner, was perfectly written, encapsulating all aspects of the strike, from the impact of the Tory government, to zooming in more specifically on a personal storyline of a group of mining men.

It is so important to remember and to be taught about this time in history, this play is not just for those who lived through this period, although there are some very explicit scenes and language, it is necessary that young people learn about the mining strike, as it had such a huge effect on families, friends, and livelihoods.

Wonderland provides us with the factual information without us even realising it.

It is so cleverly portrayed that the humour almost subdues the hard-hitting facts, but still leaves a very lasting effect.

This play will have you laughing and feeling undoubtedly proud of our region, but I can assure you there will not be a dry eye at the end of this truly moving performance.
- Caitlin McIlwraith

SOS-Save Our Seats

On 13th February 2018, I went to see Wonderland written by playwright, Beth Steel. This took place at Nottingham Playhouse on the main stage.
The play is about the 1980s miners’ strike, and is set at Welbeck Colliery, Nottinghamshire – very relevant and emotive to a Nottingham audience. The story shows the struggles the miners experienced (both above and below ground), whilst also depicting in detail the political views of both the government and the miners. It uses a great amount of verbatim to show this.

As you enter into the theatre, all that can be seen is a white safety curtain. However, as the show begins the curtain rises to reveal the very realistic mine set. The set includes various arches in the shape of mine tunnels that are embedded into a black mound of rock.

The storyline was incredibly gripping and the actors portrayed very convincing miners, displaying the thoughts and feelings of the period. However, I believe that the shower scene was unnecessary; it left the audience in shock as the actors stripped naked. I do not believe the nudity added to the purpose of that particular scene or the play itself.

The production included songs and choreography, which I found added to the atmosphere and emotion of the play. This element was literal rather than theatrical – not like musical theatre.

In conclusion, this is the best play I have seen at the Playhouse yet. It was thrilling throughout and presented many perspectives on the miner’s strike. Wonderland was a brilliant way to begin the season, and an excellent start for Adam Penford as artistic director at Nottingham Playhouse. I look forward to seeing more of his productions in the future.
- Hannah Spencer

Wild and Wonderful Wonderland

Wonderland was performed on the main stage of Nottingham Playhouse on 13th February. The director Adam Penford created an artistic interpretation of Beth Steel’s script.

The play is set in the time of the miners’ strike (1984-1985), showing us the relationships between the miners, the differences of characters and the brutal conditions of work. We see the strike from different perspectives. Wonderland establishes the view of the miners who supported the union, the miners who didn’t go on strike (the ‘scabs’), whilst the playwright cleverly weaves in the attitudes of the politicians and economists, depicting their stirring of the mining industry.

I found the opening of the play to be very successful. The use of song and choral elements was haunting, powerful, and really enhances the atmosphere of the scene, displaying to the audience how the miners were a family, and as if the men were born out of the very rocks they work in. However, the scene could have been improved by the pre-recorded music being played at the correct time. I believe an opening of a play is a vital moment, and therefore must be perfect. The audience has to be captivated within seconds. In my opinion, it took slightly longer for me to feel invested in emotion of the play due to the slight slip up.

The set was phenomenal, and vital to the impact of the play. The stage was enclosed in dark rocks and tunnels, giving the impression of a real mine. The sinister aura amplified all of the emotions displayed by the characters.

The ten actors were sensational, particularly during the later scenes in which the cast had to convey that there were thousands of miners in full battle. This was utterly breath-taking. In my opinion, Joshua Glenister gave the strongest performance, due to his ability to change his emotions within the blink of an eye. His characterisation never faltered and he played his part perfectly. In addition, the show was of definite relevance to a Nottingham audience as the play is set in Nottinghamshire at Welbeck Colliery.

The music was a successful addition to the production, as it intensified and strengthened all of the emotions felt by the miners. The sounds, such as a ticking clock and a quickening heartbeat, really conveyed the tense and bleak atmosphere of the period to the audience, as did the lighting.
I enjoyed the performance immensely, and would definitely recommend this play to all my freinds and family. I respect Adam Penford as a director and would love to see more of his work.
- Hanna Fletcher

I went to work today,
Death threats I got.
Old friends, all shouting,
All friendships forgot.
The bus is attacked,
Mud was thrown,
Truth is im glad ive gone back.
My families fed,
3 meals a day,
Weve got a roof over our head.
That’s all that matters,
Though the communities in tatters.
Guns were fired,
The sound an attack of its own,
All the picketers tired,
Yet they refuse to give up.
3 miners died on the picket line,
3 men committed suicide,
3 children died,
3 worlds were destroyed,
And one of them was mine.

A Wondrous Experience

I’m not afraid to say that I was blown away by this production. Everything from the set to the acting to the story to the characters; none of it fell short. The Playhouse has had quite a few plays set around the time of the miners’ strike, Darkness Darkness coming to mind as the most prevalent, but this one is surely the one to ‘surface’ above the rest.

The set was something tremendous to look at. The walls of the mine scatter in all directions, with crevices and holes for people to hide and move around in, and different layers of metal platforms to give it a sense of mobility to it. The lighting, too, really emphasised the feeling of being underground; and even when the characters were on the surface, they gave off a feeling of dullness and hopelessness to the characters. The actors and the writers also did a great job of not just telling you who these people are – they show it to you. I can’t remember the names of most of the characters, but I could describe to you everyone’s personality in detail with nothing but a glance of their face.

Oh, and there are songs. Yes, in this surreal, realistic drama about the downfall of these people and the loss of their livelihoods, they break out into song. Multiple times. And I loved them all. They had energy and were well written and contextual and they were great. The only bad thing about them is I don’t remember them well enough to sing myself.

Overall I find myself at a loss for words. I don’t know what else there is to say. Sure, I could praise its story some more, but since it’s based on something so central to Nottingham’s past, there’s a chance some of you know it already. Instead, I’ll just say this: if a piece so contradictory to its own themes can get multiple standing ovations, it should probably be at the top of your to do list.
- Evan Gwynne

On the thirteenth of February I went to see ‘Wonderland’ at The Playhouse.

The show is based locally, in a mine in Nottingham, set in around the 1980’s. Throughout the story we follow a small group of miners and their journey throughout one of Britain’s biggest strikes, and how it affected their lives. We also watch the show from another perspective, as a small group of economists and politicians shut down 20 pits across the country.

The show is performed by a group of 10 male actors, which is quite small for the numbers of people that would be involved in the mining strike. Amazingly, they managed to pull of this thanks to the help of multi-roling, as almost every single actor had more than one role which could vary from a waiter to a miner. The chemistry between the mining scenes seemed to fit extremely well as the comedic vibes the scenes had flowed really nicely and didn’t seem too forced from the actors. Despite this, I found that the interactions between the economists/politicians were quite tense and that I didn’t enjoy as I began to switch off from those scenes being too tense and boring.

The set, the set. Where do I begin? The set was by far the best aspect of ‘Wonderland’. The structure of the mine set could be easily adapted, as there were staircases, bridges and ladders and it was simply phenomenal! When the lights would dim the scene would have the eeriest vibes! If you’re a bit of thrill seeker, I completely recommend you look into coming to see this!

The prices for this show are fairly reasonable, as the prices can range from around £40 – £8. Wherever you are sat you still get an amazing view so whatever you pay to go see the show would be worth it. The rating for this show is 14+, as the show contains a lot of profanities, mature humour and uncensored nudity. Overall, if I had to rate this show out of ten, I would most certainly give it an 8. I absolutely adored this show but I believe it could’ve been rated higher if some bits were made slightly more clearly and to the point as well making the political scenes a lot shorter. Despite this, ‘Wonderland’ was absolutely wonderful and shout out to the director, Adam Penford!
- Ella O’Brien

Wonderland, although not of the Alice kind

The locally written play, ‘Wonderland’ shed light on to the struggle on the mining men in Nottinghamshire and around the country when they were effectively forced to strike in the 1980s for almost a year. It represented the struggle of whether to strike, and have no source of income or to carry on working and be shunned by your former comrades. It depicted the ones who went back being called scabs and traitors, because of their choice.

The casting was very good, the actors incredibly talented and a varying age range, from older men who would have been working there a long time, to young boys starting their apprenticeships like their families did before them. It showed the individual struggle over the year and longer, and focussed on each character, as there were only around 6 minors plus some government officials and showed their disagreements and how the decisions were made. The raw emotion that was portrayed on stage was incredible with the actors showing such passion and drive for what was happening to their characters, especially Jimmy who showed unwavering determination for the cause. Also the relationships were depicted in such a way that you felt like the actors were truly like brothers behind the curtain as well.

I think this was an amazing first play for the new artistic director, Adam Penford to introduce himself to the audience at the Playhouse as it really shows how well he can cast, direct and choose a play. This choice shows Penford’s talent to pick plays that both interests an older and a younger audience. It teaches you about the mining life and has some facts at the end for younger viewers who weren’t alive at that time so they can understand what is happening and the history of that time which was such a crucial part of our local modern history, but it also appeals to an older generation who remember the strike and how it affected everyone, maybe having known minors themselves, and this could be a way for them to reflect on those times and bring about a sense of nostalgia. This was represented in the standing ovation they received so deservingly at the end, they certainly brought the house down.
- Olivia Rolls

The storyline I had put together from our talk before the show was about coal miners from Nottinghamshire who end up going on a mining strike around the 1983 era. The stage had a very realistic cave setting to it which featured tunnels, a cage and ladders.

A small group of men walk onto the stage and start singing in a musical vibe to where they then switch roles quickly into businessmen. I found this really impressive as it shows the actors can switch from different emotions and tones of their voices in seconds and that requires a lot of hard work and determination.

Most of the story was true and had a lot of banter involved which made me crack a few laughs. The show did contain a scene where there was some nudity which is suitable for mature audience members around 14+.

I really enjoyed watching the show as it educated me on the past in a serious but somewhat funny manner and I would re-watch this play any day as it was very intriguing.
- Noor

A truly incredible experience. This production brought together an ingenious script, epic staging and 10 immensely talented actors to create one of the most compelling pieces of theatre I’ve ever seen. The plot is a well-known story: the appointment of Ian MacGregor as leader of the National Coal Board and the election of Margaret Thatcher, coupled with Arthur Scargill becoming leader of the National Union of Mineworkers, led to one of the biggest strikes in history. The play follows the story of these people in charge, but also of 6 miners who work in a colliery in Nottinghamshire.

We first learn what it means to be a miner and the dangerous conditions they worked in before the strike and then watch a growing unrest amongst miners leading to Arthur Scargill announcing a national strike without a national ballot, something unprecedented and arguably illegal. The consequent events are devastating. Miners turn on each other as a few ‘scabs’ continue to work, arguing that they didn’t get a say in the strike so it doesn’t apply to them. I learned a lot about the miners’ strikes just by watching the different stories unfolding onstage.

The entire show was staged in a coal mine, with no set changes at all. There were jagged black walls lining the sides and 3 tunnels leading in from the back and sides, as well as a bridge that was moved in and out of sight throughout the play and helped to show different levels of social class of physical placement e.g. someone down the mine and someone at the top of the pit.

The moving musical numbers added a vivid theatricality to the show while also helping to effectively express the miners’ thoughts and feelings clearly through dance and song, and the almost rhythmic chanting of the words gave an insight into the camaraderie and strong friendships formed in the darkness of the pits.

The lighting was very clever with much of it coming from the headlamps on the miners’ helmets. The strong beams of light helped to focus in on individual things and at times the stage would go almost completely dark so only silhouettes could be seen which highlighted the unpredictability of working in those conditions.

They have successfully made a national story into an intimate and touching drama which I would recommend to anyone who wants a thought-provoking night at the theatre.
- Mia Cross

I turned up at Critics’ Circle on Tuesday with absolutely no idea of what to expect. Wonderland marked the start of a new season, a new set of plays for the Circle to Criticise, and a new artistic director at the Playhouse- all in all, a momentous production with just-as-large expectations surrounding it.
It’s safe to say I was not disappointed.

Wonderland was magical. It was a truly Nottingham play, based here, about firmly local men, giving it that little spark of relatability so crucial in the theatre. It was a truly human play, treating the miners and the politicians puppeteering them as nothing more than people. It was a truly comic play, with little jokes and flashes of wit throughout, crucial in alleviating the tension of a very serious subject. It was, above all, a play about relationships, so that despite obviously never having been down a coal mine myself (!) I found myself understanding the crucial dynamics between the mining community.

The actors did the Playhouse proud on this one. There was real development seen in the characters that was honestly touching, particularly in one scene where a miner breaks down in noisy sobs after confessing to shooting his dog. The emotion portrayed was so visceral, so real, it was almost as if I had left the theatre and been transported to the time of the miner’s strike; which, in my opinion, is the mark of a very accomplished play. All in all, a tremendous and electric performance, and I can’t wait to see what else Adam Penford will show us this season!
- Maisie

This production of Wonderland, written by Beth Steel, is the brainchild of our new director, Adam Penford. It is an ambitious first play, as it deals with a tricky subject from our shared history and also tackles the mistakes made by politicians at the time of the miners strike. It remains humorous while informing us of the harsh realities facing the miners and their families.

We are introduced to the miners working hard right here in Nottingham and the politicians who were fighting against them. I’m sure that many of us have been told stories from our grandparents but it is really more hard-hitting when it is laid out in front of you. The hard graft that the miners had to display and the dangerous conditions threatening their very lives.

When the strikes begin, we are confronted with the difficult choices the men made and their desperation to be earning again while the politicians are facing the backlash of the general public, who supported the workers the whole way through. The cast is only composed of ten people but that is more than enough with the skill and talent every single one of them posses. With names like, Chris Ashby, Tony Bell and Robin Bowerman, and led by Deka Walmsley as the no nonsense foreman, how could this production not be a hit? The set designer, Morgan Large, is to be applauded for her ability to create such an incredible cave that still allows for the scenes involving the politicians and the strike centre. The lighting (Jack Knowles) and sounds (Jon Nicholls) added to the story so beautifully that we were sucked into the events and almost had to remind ourselves that we were watching a play! Naomi Said is the movement director and helped bring the story to life. She recreates actual fights between the riot police and the picket lines and choreographs the work the miners do like a dance piece whilst portraying the incredible hard graft in the movement. I am not ashamed to say that, even with all of the humour injected, I shed a tear or two along with some of the other audience members. They definitely earned that standing ovation, of which I was a part.
-Rachael Wells