Thu 20th – Sat 29th August 2015


Becky Wilson

at 21:10 on 27th Aug 2015



Undermined is a highly ambitious one man show about the miners’ strikes, as imagined by Danny Mellor. This is a play of extremes, depicting both the rowdy optimism of the first strike, to the sobering reality of violent police clashes. Mellor is energetic and compelling as young miner Dale. He speaks to the audience intimately while nursing a pint, as if telling his story to a friend in the pub.

Most solo performers would be unwise to choose a subject matter so tied to ideas of community and group friendship. So it is a huge testament to Mellor’s abilities that he is able to evoke the camaraderie of the miners single-handedly. He faultlessly switches between impersonations of Dale’s friends: from solemn, intimidating Barry to scrawny, nasal Johnny, Mellor’s collection of convincing accents and postures make these characters seem real. Mellor does have the tendency to speak very quickly. While this largely fits with the enthusiasm of the piece, there were moments when his words became incoherent.

The play’s tone fluctuates rather dramatically between comedy and tragedy. Johnny’s high-pitched, incredulous voice (“the police chuffing chased me through Asda’s! Never shopping there again”) causes a ripple of laughter in the audience. And later, when depicting Dale’s reaction to his best friend becoming a “scab”, Mellor is genuinely moving. He knows when to let the silence speak for itself.

The set is bare but Mellor uses it shrewdly. Changes in season and time of day are indicated simply by Dale discarding his denim jacket, or wrapping it back around himself in the cold. The music used throughout is illustrative of the shifts in tone, complementing rather than disrupting the action.

Unsurprisingly, this play is deeply critical of Thatcher and the media’s portrayal of the strikes. This is apparent most clearly in the razor-sharp line “the ones that kept the enemy out are now the enemy within”, a reference to the irony with which veterans turned miners were rejected by their own country. But Undermined is more than this: it is a modern-day call to arms, a rallying cry for the wronged. The ending of Mellor’s monologue gathers pace magnificently with passion and rhyme. Dale stares into the audience and asks “when it’s your turn will you answer the call?”

A powerful study of the emotional toll of the miners’ strikes and youthful idealism, Undermined is not to be missed.


Chloe St George

at 12:19 on 28th Aug 2015



Other actors could do with taking a leaf out of Danny Mellor’s book. The book would be called How to do a One Man Show Properly. In Undermined, performed and written by Mellor, it is easy to forget about the bare set and minimal props and the fact that the actor was only born a decade after the events he describes, as his earnest performance commands the stage and audience alike.

Though inspired by and based on real accounts of miners, Undermined is no-one’s story in particular. Instead, it looks at the typical attitudes and struggles of the mining community at the time of the strike. To bring this to life, however, Mellor tells the story through the eyes of the fictional young miner Dale, who helps to demonstrate the effects that the choices of “the government” (presented as the natural enemy throughout the piece) had on individual lives and relationships.

Mellor's portrayal of each character is recognisably distinct – a credit to his range of accents and thoughtful physicality. One particular character is used well to provide many comedic moments in the show.

It is admirable and impressive that Mellor attempts to tell the collective story and embody the community spirit of the miners all by himself. For the most part, he is successful, and I was surprised to see that a fight scene could work within a one man show. Yet, for me, the production is not as emotive as it could be. Perhaps this is due to the nature of the script, which uses a reported narrative rather than present tense, and not much explicit commentary alongside events. It is by no means calmly reflective, but nor does it feel urgent. Or perhaps it is the fact that, in only 50 minutes, and when we cannot see all of the characters on stage before us, it is difficult to create the same level of empathy that feature length films such as Pride or Billy Elliot do with the same subject matter. It is a shame, as it meant that the final scene, clearly aiming to rouse something in the hearts of the audience, fell slightly short.

Putting this aside, the first and last scenes of the show were very well thought out. The stylised opening is suddenly cut short, introducing us to the playful energy of the narrator, whilst the ending uses verse to tie the narrative together and, hopefully stir emotion and a sense of responsibility in the audience.

All in all the show is engaging and extremely professional, and worth a watch for the powerhouse performance by the exuberant Danny Mellor.


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