When gay activists offer support to a suffering Welsh village during the 1984 Miners’ Strike, the communities forge an unlikely alliance that will have huge repercussions. Another heartwarming tale of Thatcherite Britain has a disarming take on dark days, courage and solidarity.
At the time, did anyone realise the Miners’ Strike of 1984 would shape modern Britain? Films and plays keep coming showing how it did. This one, based on real people and events, is everything you could hope for from a well-written (by actor-turned-playwright Stephen Beresford), beautifully cast historical comedy-drama. It’s funny, moving and uplifting, and has a cracking soundtrack, Pete Seeger, Billy Bragg, a Welsh choir and Frankie Goes To Hollywood mellifluously and meaningfully conjoined.
At London’s Gay Pride march in 1984, various mini-dramas take shape. Wide-eyed naif Joe (George MacKay) is turning 20 and terrified of coming out but galvanised by his more glamorous, confident brethren. Activists Mark (Ben Schnetzer) and Mike (Joseph Gilgun) note that the LGBT community has much in common with the striking miners, both demonised by Thatcher’s government, police and tabloids. So they form Lesbians And Gays Support Miners. Only the NUM is queasy about taking donations from poofters. Undeterred, the gang jump in a colourful bus, speeding scenically over the Severn Bridge to vowel-challenged village Onllwyn and a mixed reception at the working men’s club. As in some drag-queen comedies of fond memory, the rapprochement between supposedly clashing subcultures yields touching and even thrilling consequences.
Arguably there are too many characters vying for story time, but several players make an impression. American Schnetzer, so affecting in The Book Thief, takes a big step to surely inevitable stardom. If anyone can be charged with scene-stealing it’s charismatic Dominic West, who doesn’t go too OTT as flamboyant actor Jonathan but is irresistible demonstrating disco-fever dance moves and dispensing relationship advice to miners. Director Matthew Warchus (who will succeed Kevin Spacey as Artistic Director of the Old Vic) knows he’s following in the line of Billy Elliot, Brassed Off and The Full Monty, and deftly balances jokes and tears to make this every bit as enjoyable.
A clear winner that makes you laugh, cry, and generally want to party and parade like it’s 1984. Respect.