Wonderland – reviews of ‘thrilling’ miners' strike play

Jul 7, 2014

‘Gripping, darkly comic’ play about the miners’ strike by a miner’s daughter wows critics

Manuel Harlan
What you need to know

A new play about the miners’ strike, Wonderland, has opened at the Hampstead Theatre, London. Beth Steel, herself the daughter of a miner, wrote the play for the 30th anniversary of the miners’ strike.

The play provides an overview of the events, both below and above ground, surrounding the 1984-85 miners’ strike in Britain. It follows a group of Nottinghamshire miners inducting teenage recruits, intercutting their story with that of key government figures as they plot a free-market strategy involving mine closures and weakening the mining union.

Edward Hall directs the production, which runs until 26 July.

What the critics like

This epic drama is a "black diamond in the rough", an ambitious, sprawling, impassioned play transporting its audience down into the infernal world of a Nottinghamshire pit, says Sam Marlowe in The Times. Edward Hall’s thrilling production is richly evocative and intensely moving.

This powerful play has been given an "exceptionally involving and emotionally devastating production", with a spectacular set dominated by a mighty pit shaft, says Paul Taylor in The Independent. This very moving play is timely in more ways than one as it marks the start of the steady erosion of workers’ rights.

This "gripping, darkly comic and often moving play" gets a superb staging with a spectacular triple-decker set, says Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph. There are some superb performances in a production of rare power and theatrical flair.

What they don't like

Steel’s cool-eyed, 360-degree overview brings a balance that is commendable, but "it does come at the expense of some heart", says Fiona Mountford in the Evening Standard. Wonderland is unlikely to change your views on the sobering events of 1984-85, but it serves as an eloquent reminder of their importance.

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Remind me which political party closed the most coal mines ? Oh it was Labour wasn't it.