In the Shadow of Orgreave by Martin Miller

And so it’s all over bar the shouting. After 4 weeks of intensive work on John Harvey’s excellent stage adaptation of his final Charlie Resnick novel, Darkness, Darkness, we now leave the relative safety of the New Perspectives rehearsal room in Basford and move into the Nottingham Playhouse from next week to start the technical and dress rehearsals for what will be the next show of the Sweet Vengeance season. If anything, this is where all the hard work needs to come together. The actors need to adjust their performances from the intimacy of the rehearsal room to the theatrical space without losing any of the subtleties and truth of their characterisations that have been developed through the rehearsal process (so rule one: don’t panic, rule two: don’t start shouting). Our hardworking technical crew including Kathryn Wilson (Deputy Stage Manager), Drew Baumhol (Sound Designer), Azusa Ono (Lighting Designer), Ruth Sutcliffe (Set Designer) amongst many others will be collaborating with our director Jack McNamara to bring the world of the 1984/5 Miners’ Strike and Harvey’s CWA Dagger award – winning Detective Charlie Resnick seamlessly to life, and from Friday 30th September audiences will see the finished product.

l-r-emma-thornett-martin-miller-darkness-darkness-by-john-harvey-photo-by-robert-day

Actors Emma Thornett & Martin Miller in rehearsals

I have been impressed throughout this process by the collaboration between Jack McNamara and John Harvey. It is rare for directors and writers to cooperate so effectively. I worked with Jack on a previous New Perspectives play about Alfred Hitchcock and he has a strong sense of how to engage with a piece visually, almost filmically, and in collaboration with our Video Designer, Will Simpson, audiences will find themselves transported to the heart of a mining community bitterly divided by the strike, and of a murder investigation 30 years later which threatens to open these divisions once more. Harvey’s skill has been in not only placing Resnick front and centre of this action in the theatrical space, but also in bringing the world of this torn mining community to life. One could argue that the work is even more politically charged and relevant today with the recent announcement of an inquiry into the events at ‘The Battle of Orgreave’ . Harvey’s play explicitly references Orgreave and its aftermath, indeed Resnick finds himself conflicted by the police conduct on that day, and we see the casual brutality of the Met. The recent inquiry into the Hillsborough disaster laid bare the failings of South Yorkshire police and the Hillsborough families had to fight courageously and persistently for years to get any semblance of justice. The Orgreave families have had an even longer wait. Indeed, post-Brexit result, it appeared the issue could conceivably be dropped from the government agenda altogether. How can one even begin to disentangle the bloody events at Orgreave, of systematic and systemic state and police collusion, the very worst example and excess of what Tristram Hunt MP called ‘legalised state violence’?

Over thirty years on, the events of the Miners’ Strike still divide communities and we see in the play how these divisions are just as raw today. All of this plus at the heart of the play we see the dogged determination of Charlie Resnick to solve one last murder case before his impending retirement. John Harvey first created his famous Nottingham Detective back in 1988 and I am confident that with the team Jack McNamara has put together and the strong collaboration between cast, production team, director and author that we can do it justice. As we head into our final rehearsal week, John Harvey’s beloved Notts County have just beaten Leyton Orient 3 – 1. Surely a good omen? Hope to see all you Resnick afficionados in the theatre bar afterwards for a drop of Highland Park. “No sense arguing, Resnick raised his glass and drank…”.

david-fleeshman-darkness-darkness-by-john-harvey-photo-by-robert-day

David Fleeshman as Charlie Resnick in rehearsals

Darkness, Darkness opens at the Nottingham Playhouse Friday 30 September until Saturday 15 October. Tickets available from the Nottingham Playhouse website and at their Box Office on 0115 9419419.

Advertisements

Shedding Light on Darkness, Darkness by Elizabeth Twells

I was born and bred in Nottingham, and for my first play in Notts to be John Harvey’s Darkness, Darkness with both New Perspectives and Nottingham Playhouse, is a real privilege as it’s a very personal story for me and my home town.

Set in Nottingham, the play focuses on Detective Charlie Resnick’s last case following the discovery of the body of my character, Jenny Hardwick; a young woman who disappeared during the bitterly-fought miners’ strike 30 years earlier. It moves between both 1984 and present day, opening old wounds sustained on the Nottinghamshire picket lines for many characters.

I was born after the miners’ strike and my first experience of it was seeing footage released of The Battle of Orgreave years after the strike had finished and thinking ‘that can’t be real’.

orgreaveOrgreave 29th May 1984

Only recently I found out I had a connection with the strike through my Mum. I always thought that Nottingham miners had gone on strike, but only a very small percentage actually joined the pickets, the vast majority had continued to go to work. My Nanna mentioned that when she went away to Yorkshire during the strike she was told not to say she was from Notts because we were a ‘scabbing’ city.

Our play shows both sides of the strike; the miners who kept working and those that went on strike, including the flying pickets who came down to Nottingham from Yorkshire to persuade the men to stay away from work.

My character, Jenny, is married to a miner and chooses to go against her ‘scabbin’ husband to join those on the picket line, creating a huge rift in their relationship. Jenny is the kind of part you dream to play in that she’s not your average young female role. She’s a sparky, unpredictable, driven woman who is politically awakened throughout the play.

During rehearsals Harry Paterson, who wrote Look Back in Anger: The Miners’ Strike in Nottinghamshire, came in to speak to us about what the strike was like in Nottingham. He told us how the strike galvanised many women, who were used to building their lives around their home, to suddenly become independent, ambitious activists. These women then went on to attend University, become leaders and MPs, the likes of which they never thought would happen to them. Jenny represents those women and her journey through the play encapsulates that liberation.

The cast are a bloody brilliant bunch and Jack McNamara (the director) has established a very fun and creative environment in rehearsals for people to explore, play and take risks. Today we’ve been working on ‘the murder’ scene which is going to be so exciting. I’ve definitely come up with a few daft ideas which, thankfully, you won’t see!

liz-twellsBeing very serious in rehearsals…

I was sat in the Nottingham Playhouse the night I decided I wanted to be an actor and being able to finally tread the boards in there is a real honour. Plus, the whole family’s coming too so the pressure’s on…

Please come and see us so it’s not just me Dad in every night.

Darkness, Darkness is on at the Nottingham Play Fri 30 Sep – Sat 15 October. Tickets are available from the Playhouse website or at their Box Office on 0115 941 9419.