United We Stand (Tour – Liverpool)

The politics is here but the play itself has flaws.

Neil Gore and William Fox
Neil Gore and William Fox

United We Stand is a biographical political piece which documents a miscarriage of justice regarding the ‘Shrewsbury 24′ which led to the imprisonment of three workers, Des Warren, Ricky Tomlinson and John McKinsie Jones.

The two actors, Neil Gore and William Fox play a multitude of roles, illustrating the story of the 1972 builders strike and subsequent trial by combining songs and short scenes into a two act play.

While the politics is fascinating and the songs entertaining, the play could have done with more explanation of the context of this production. If you did not live through these times, it was quite easy to get lost and confused in a torrent of unfamiliar names and terms.

Whilst there is an interesting exhibition in the front of house, designed by Jo Barber, which helped explain the phrases and background, it still leaves some of the less informed, confused.

There is a rather inventive use of a multifunctional and practical set that used the space well, helping with the flow of scenes, transitioning from settings such as a bar and a court with ease.

At times, the play drags, especially during the middle of Act 1, however it is saved by a very enjoyable scene of satire of the British ruling class and Tory government to finish the Act. Act 2, depicting the trial of the Shrewsbury 24 is engaging and thought provoking, exactly what the campaign behind this production was going for.

While there were a few mistakes of missed lines and a lyric issue which the actors played off with an amusing improvisation to cover, the two actors, Neil Gore and William Fox, portray each of the many different characters with immense skill and respect for each of the real people they were portraying, leading to two very poignant monologues at the end of Act 2 that will stay with you long after the play has finished.

The message this production conveys is important and something to think about, but it’s best suited for those who have lived through the Thatcher years.

United We Stand continues at the Lantern until 11 October and tours the UK.