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Home arrow Archive: EdFringe 2013 arrow Children of Mine
Children of Mine
Published on Friday, 16 August 2013

4 stars

Venue 13 (venue website)
3-11, 13-24 Aug, 2:45pm-3:35pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

 Recommended for age 12+ only.

It happened ten years before I was born, but I’ve always known about the horror of Aberfan. At 9:15 one morning in October 1966, this Welsh mining village was engulfed by a landslide – a torrent of colliery debris, loosened by heavy rainfall but primed by the negligence of the National Coal Board. In a cruel stroke of timing, it swept through a junior school just after morning assembly, catching the pupils as they took to their desks on the very last day of term. 116 children and 28 adults died, buried among the coal waste and the soil.

In Children Of Mine, a young ensemble – with faces and clothes covered in coal-black dust – recall the events of that devastating day, through a mix of dialogue, physical theatre and song.  Seven stepladders elegantly evoke the seven spoil heaps that surrounded Aberfan.  As we follow a postman on his rounds through the village, we visit a series of families at their breakfast that morning, just five minutes before the fatal landslip began.  And later, after witnessing the tragic school assembly, we tour the street again; this time, we see the effects of the disaster on those who were left behind.

This is, very recognisably, a piece of youth theatre, and at times it lacked a little subtlety.  To pick one random example, making nee-naw noises wasn’t the most artful way to signify the arrival of the rescue team, and there’s too much reliance on speaking in unison – a device which was striking at first but lost its impact when so heavily used.  But yet, the age of the cast is part of the point; it’s a constant and dreadful reminder of all the lives that were cut so short.  And despite their youth, they are thoroughly professional.  The delivery is utterly flawless.

On a practical note, before you see this play, you might like to read up on the lyrics of Ar Hyd y Nos / All Through The Night.  They sing it in Welsh, and it was only after I’d had a chance to Google a translation that I realised how relevant and poignant the words actually are.  Considering how extensively the song is used, there might be a case for performing it bilingually – or even just printing the English words in the accompanying programme.

On cold-hearted analysis, I’d also have to say that some of the vignettes were a little too long, and the early scenes could have done more to build a portent of what was soon to come.  But this isn’t a time to be cold-hearted.  This is a powerful, credible and – yes – important piece of theatre, which ably reveals the raw emotional horror of that day in October.  It’s a challenging play to watch, and I do think it has scope to be developed a little further.  But still, this is a brutally memorable piece of theatre, which simply demands to be seen.

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