Close the Coalhouse Door (Tour - Newcastle)
First performed at the Flora Robson Theatre in 1968, the play has gone on to be performed over the years in many guises, this time round as a tour de force in acting, direction, comedy and musicianship.
Performed in true Brechtian fashion, the audience is distanced from the action on stage. You're made to think, to get angry, to get mad about the injustice of the character's situation, to get mad about the history of the politic, and the lies that continue to be told.
Yes this is real grass roots theatre, the type of theatre that was the main stay of an early Live Theatre. The production is directed by Samuel West, taking time off from a busy schedule as an actor. This is why the production works and benefits from an actor's knowledge and experience.
The company are so at ease with each other the scenes work seamlessly, split staging, swopping characters, changing time frames all work to great effect. The setting from Soutra Gilmour is wonderful, creative yet simple, effective yet evocative.
There are moments when a few more runs would cement the flow of action, but it's a few days into the run, so let's forget it and not be pedantic. The cast of nine work with great flair throughout the performance and there are strong performances from each member of the cast. In true Marxist fashion, I am not singling anyone out for special praise, comrade.
I am meant to be impartial, not swayed by theatrical tricks, but I stood and applauded in a standing ovation. This production really has to be seen. I mean if you really appreciate good theatre, then you have to see it.
- Damian Robson