BAFTA winning Emmerdale writer Karin Young introduces her play, The Awkward Squad to the Customs House, South Shields. It features an all-woman cast which portrays three generations of the same family, which has been forever altered by the mining strikes and their eventual closure. We start with a family that seems to have everything, a mother about to have a community centre named after her, a rich daughter with her money loving granddaughter and another daughter who is a BAFTA winning documentary maker. But things don’t always as great as they first seem
Comedy plays a huge part in the production, and they have case four women who can really make a crowd laugh. Whether it is dark humour in the face of adversity or slapstick I found myself chucking on numerous occasions, along with the rest of the crowd. Barbara Marten plays the exhausted but loving grandmother, who brings a real softness to the role, whilst always portraying matriarchal inner steel. Her daughters are played by The Bill star, Libby Davison and Emmerdale Geordie, Charlie Hardwick. They really compliment and bounce off each other well and the sisterly banter is rather authentic, while the rivalry and love shown creates some believable characters. The granddaughter is played by Lisa McGrillis, who is charming and really comes into her own as the play goes on.
Social media and text messages are integrated into the simple set of the house, of which most of the play takes place, with them flashing up for the crowd to read on walls or the ceiling, keeping the crowd in the loop. As well as photos and videos from the strike and closures playing to help create a mood and bring the history to the foreground.
There is cultural and social commentary on the new values which are being pushed on women in today’s society. Life without purpose and the idea of being a WAG as a career choice is abhorred. Whilst the idea of a strong family unit shines brightest. As everyone will taste failure at some point in their eyes, the play shows that with family by your side, a happier future can be found.
Heartwarming and thought provoking, what Karin Young has created is a play which shows an otherwise unseen side to the mine closures, and the trials and tribulations of the families trying to better themselves since. With humour and wit weaved against the darker depressing results, I found it to be both charming and smartly written.