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A magnificent tribute to town's war heroes


Treacle Town Tommy, Abbey Theatre, Nuneaton.

For a chap like me, sitting comfy in a lovely theatre, this production resonated and reverberated long after the poppies cascaded from the ceiling at the final curtain.

My grandfather was a miner and a Durham Light Infantryman in the First World War. My dad was a miner and a member of the British Expeditionary Force in 1939 with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.

This magnificent play taps into the heart and soul, the very roots of colliery towns like Nuneaton (nick-named Treacle Town) whose sons went boldly and bravely from underground to The Front.

Like the miners, the actors dug deep. Very deep. The play is an emotional roller-coaster in this, the centenary of Armistice Day. It moved me immensely.

Well done, Sudden Impulse. You captured the mood of the era when flat caps at home were the norm and helmets were obligatory over the Channel. I salute you unashamedly.

I'm gushing out the plaudits, but they are fully deserved. Ollie Topp, in the title role of Treacle Town Tommy, is a sensitive and rock-solid recruit to the legion of collier lads plucked from the Warwickshire coalfields.

There are sombre references to our mining heritage, notably the pit disaster at Exhall. And throughout the production, there are photographic images evoking memories of bygone Nuneaton.

A lot of credit goes to the behind-the-scenes technical staff (James Ansell and Charlie Flick). They integrated black and white footage with slick precision and one scene captured the horror exactly.

Treacle Town's mining lads were pushed into service to tunnel under enemy lines and lay mines. After almost two years of tunnelling, the result was one of the largest ever non-nuclear explosions and was reportedly heard in London and Dublin. Some 10,000 German soldiers were killed by the mines.

How the scene was portrayed was simple in its conception. The technicians plunged the theatre into darkness to mimic a tunnel and displayed a small video clip with thunderous noise. Simple, but so very effective.

There is a cast of just seven, a magnificent seven. Each did his or her own research for this play, a tribute to Warwickshire's mining heritage and a homage to The Fallen.

abbeytheatre.co.uk

Winner!