Tinned Goods by Fiona Whitelaw

Tinned Goods promo image

Tinned Goods promo image

The play takes place during August 1984 several months into a strike which fundamentally altered the landscape of industrial relations in the UK. The action happens in the days leading up to the ‘Women’s March Against Pit Closures’ taking place in London.

Having found themselves divided from former friends by the men’s choice to strike or not, the play explores the journey travelled by the women in a tight-knit mining community.

Sue and Rachel have not spoken since the miners walked out three months earlier. Both women’s loyalty to their husbands is pushed to the limit. Sue’s choice to accept support from a scab family causes a rift between herself and her striking husband, while Rachel’s isolation is compounded by her closest family members being on the opposite side of the dispute.

Rachel is persuaded by her Aunty Brenda to go on the picket line despite her husband continuing to work. As a result Brenda and Rachel find themselves detained in a police cell in Nottingham. The reality of what Rachel finds there both shocks and galvanises her.

The young women in the town are bored with the lack of money and opportunity to pursue normal teenage social life. Sue’s daughter Bethany begins a relationship with one of the officers sent to the pits to police the strike. Bethany and her best friend ‘try out’ picketing, exploring for themselves which side they are on. Bethany, upset by the discord between her parents, attempts to find her policeman by travelling to London, firstly alone and unsuccessfully and then with her friend on the coach taking the women to the London march.

Finally, Aunty Brenda’s health is increasingly affected by her hard work for the cause and Rachel finds herself thrust into the spotlight. Witnessing Brenda’s inability to speak at the start of a public meeting, Rachel seizes the moment and rallies her audience, simultaneously realising the depth of her own commitment.

Stylistically, the voices of the women involved in the dispute are heard in a physical chorus throughout the play. They embody the women from all the coalfields, their striking men and the men that police them.

Tinned Goods was toured nationally by Tea and Tenacity Theatre Company.
Fiona is working with producer Keshia Watson to develop a London run of the play.