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United We Stand

Oran Mor, Glasgow
Three stars
When a convicted prisoner talks about how the real conspiracies in the
country are not between trade unionists and workers, but with
politicians and corporations protecting the wealthy few, and how trade
unions may soon be illegal, you could be forgiven for thinking the
words are spoken by some contemporary dissident. As it is, they are the
parting shots from striking builders Des Warren and future comedy actor
Ricky Tomlinson, who, along with twenty-two other men in 1972 following
a volatile period of industrial unrest in the UK, were convicted on the
nineteenth century law of 'conspiracy to intimidate and affray.'

It is the plight of the men who became known as the Shrewsbury 24 that
is the subject of Neil Gore's loose-knit musical play for Townsend
Productions which is currently on a whistle-stop tour of the country
that takes in North Edinburgh Arts Centre tonight and Blantyre Miners
Welfare club on Sunday. With the help of just an overhead projector,
some factory-grey stools and a couple of makeshift signs, Gore and
onstage sparring partner William Fox transform a grim battle between
workers and construction industry fat-cats into a working-man's club
style cabaret, flat-caps, bad suits and all.

Arriving in Scotland to promote the campaign to quash the guilty
verdicts that still stand for the twenty-four, the mix of songs and
sketches that breaks up the narrative in  Louise Townsend's rough-cast
production is unashamedly partisan. Coming at a time too when basic
workers rights are once again under fire by big business, it is not
just a good night out, but a vital piece of not so ancient history.

The Herald, October 17th 2014


ends

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