Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Great camaraderie among threatened Port Talbot Steel Workers

We’re Still Here

National Theatre Wales and Common Wealth , Bypass Works, Port Talbot , September 19, 2017
We’re Still Here by National Theatre Wales and Common Wealth There was real excitement in the air as we entered this immense disused warehouse only a little way along the coast from the iconic Port Talbot Steel Works, the central character in the drama about to explode before us. As the dust trickled down to the floor it glinted as it caught the light. This was a big production put together by a very able team working with National Theatre Wales Artistic Director, Kully Thiarai. The music and sound by Wojciech Rusin and Andy Purves lighting played an essential supportive role, underpinning the sometimes fast moving action.

The script comes from the successful Rhondda Valley novelist, Rachel Trezise working with two exciting writers/theatre makers, Rhiannon White and Evie Manning of Common Wealth Theatre. A Bradford based company specializing in Site-Specific work, with additions from within the company. The spirit of the Port Talbot steel workers was perfectly captured; there was also some very poetic and moving moments all created by this absolutely amazing and totally committed cast.

For 90 minutes we all lived within the threatened lives of these remarkable resilient workingmen. At its peak in the 1960s the Port Talbot Steel Works appeared to be invincible. It was one of the largest in Europe, with a workforce of 18,000. Port Talbot is THE Steel Works. Over the years it has done much to contribute and create the strong and prosperous character of the town. It was there, continually growing, from the beginning of the twentieth century.

Now times aren’t so good but even now with a much-reduced work force of 4000 it is making a significant contribution to the economy of Wales. But for how long? Despite having been told that their jobs are secure for the next five years, everyone continually works under this cloud of uncertainty.

The steel workforce is represented by five workers, brilliantly played. It is the strength of the acting team that brings the greatest satisfaction to the evening. The four professionals are joined by real steal worker, Sam Coombes. Maybe that is why he is so gripping and convincing as he fights the pain of his redundancy. The Promenade performance moves smoothly around the big space but one of the most moving moments occur when we went ‘In The Round’, sitting or standing behind a circle of red chairs with some of the actors also on the chairs.

Here we get a remarkable performance from Ioan Hefin, showing how he has been worn down under the pain of the frustrating negotiations he has been involved in as the trade union rep. A job not entirely appreciated by some.

A team of young actors from the local community bring a more innocent eye to the goings on and with more fine performances from Jason May, Simon Nehan and Siôn Tudor Owen demonstrate the total commitment the National Theatre Wales has given to this very human situation.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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