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Theatre Review: United We Stand
RickyTomlinson, photo Harry Smith
Reviewed by Kate Jones, Socialist Party Wales
It is the summer of 1972, two years into a Tory government, and building workers take strike action against the 'Lump' - the use of cash-in-hand non-union labour in the building industry.
Flying pickets travel from site to site, and succeed in persuading workers to join the union, and the strike. The bosses retaliate. The big building companies, and their Tory allies, decide to teach the trade unions a lesson.
Des Warren and Eric 'Ricky' Tomlinson are two workers who pay a heavy price, when 24 pickets are charged with a variety of offences, including 'conspiracy to intimidate and affray'. Conspiracy laws, not used since the days of Queen Victoria, are a stick to punish the workers.
United We Stand, currently touring, is a political - and highly entertaining - two-man show, which uses humour, music and puppets to tell the story of the strike and its aftermath. The audience become the workers at the strike meeting and the public at the trial. News and other footage from the time are projected on to a sheet draped over the scaffolding that makes up a simple set.
Over 40 years later, the campaign to overturn the verdicts continues. On tour with the play is an exhibition from the official Shrewsbury 24 Campaign. As Des Warren told his trial: "The only conspiracy was between the government, the employers and the police".
Ricky Tomlinson, today supporting the play, comments: "They wanted the prison sentences to act as a deterrent to prevent workers from taking strike action. Every worker should know what happened to us to ensure it does not happen again." United We Stand is a play which every trade unionist and activist should see.
United We Stand by Neil Gore
Townsend Productions in association with the official Shrewsbury 24Campaign www.townsendproductions.org.uk
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