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Issue #1740      July 20, 2016

Theatre review by Evan Pritchard

Revival of a 1930s polemic

This promenade production* of Love on the Dole in five different locations – three of them in an unseasonal but appropriate Salford downpour – opens in an old Salford mill.

Salford Community Theatre re-stages the infamous Battle of Bexley Square.

What follows is a first-class interpretation of Walter Greenwood’s classic account of a community blighted by unemployment in the 1930s.

Its themes of poverty, industrial life, family, class relationships and politics still resonate.

The initial scenes make their impact as the audience intermingle with the cast and the action then moves towards the march organised by the National Unemployed Workers’ Movement and the subsequent clashes with the police.

The infamous Battle of Bexley Square – in the course of which a number of activists, including the late Eddie Frow, Young Communist League member and future co-founder of the Working Class Movement Library were assaulted and arrested – has all the immediacy of a real-life march, complete with red flags, songs and slogans. Cars beep us in support.

Implicit in the fascinating and informative program and the production itself, the politics of this version are very different from those of the otherwise marvellous film of Greenwood’s novel, which many credited with helping Labour win the 1945 election.

While there is no mention of the “c” word, nor is there an attack on the communists as dangerous irresponsible instigators of violence, with the hero as “responsible” Labour Party activist trying to hold people back.

This tells it as it really was and hopefully the Salford Community Theatre Project will get the chance to stage this stirring production again.

* Site-specific theatre is any type of theatrical production designed to be performed at a unique, specially adapted location other than a standard theatre. This specific site either may be originally built without any intention of serving theatrical purposes (for example, in a hotel, courtyard, or converted building), or may simply be considered an unconventional theatre space (for example, in a forest).

Morning Star

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