Strike! at Southwark Playhouse
Making its debut on the London stage after an initial run in Dublin in 2010, Strike! has undergone years of development to become what it is today. It has arrived in the city just at the right moment to aptly mirror the many industrial actions currently taking place.
Set in Ireland in the 1980s, as Apartheid is at its height over in South Africa, this true tale follows ten shop workers as they go on strike over refusing to handle South African goods in their store. Expecting their protest to only last a matter of weeks, their story deepens as they refuse to betray their morals and get a greater understanding of what they’re fighting for.
Thoughtfully written by Tracy Ryan, Strike! has taken her several years to write and it shows in her handling of this inspiring yet complex subject matter. The directing from Kirsty Patrick Ward did well to handle the number of characters in the piece, while ensuring each voice stood out. Ten key characters, as well as additional supporting ones, were perhaps too many to follow succinctly, but as this is a true story, it is understandable why the playwright chose to keep all of them.
The overall sense of camaraderie among the cast made it easy for the audience to become engrossed in the world of the narrative. The whole ensemble adeptly handled the serious side of the drama, while bringing a lightness to their performances in the form of typical Irish wit, with stand-out turns from Jessica Regan and Anne O’Riordan.
The swift and imaginative set changes made excellent use of the space, taking theatregoers on a journey from Dublin to South Africa and back. There was plenty of audience engagement, with quips to the attendees from the stage. This sealed the bond between the viewer and the subject matter, and they responded readily to the witticism of the material.
Whether intentional or just fortunate timing, this is a poignant reflection on our current times, as the play grapples with what it means to stick to our morals when finances are tight.
Image: Mark Douet
Strike! is at Southwark Playhouse from 13th April until 6th May 2023. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.