Set in a warehouse in Port Talbot within view of the steelworks, We’re Still Here is a site specific piece about the devastation of steel workers losing their jobs at the hands of globalisation and capitalism.
The audience are allowed to wander through the space that is adorned with piles of rubble that somehow feel like epitaphs or graves. You can feel the ghosts of the steel workers as you take in the scene. We learn later that a steel worker losing his job is like a death. All the names of workers who have lost their jobs are read out in a somber memorial.
Rachel Trezise has written the play from the words of the community and it is performed by former and current steelworkers alongside a professional cast. The real steelworkers get to tell their version of the fateful day when a deal was being done to save the steelworks. They directly address the audience in small groups. I thought there was going to be more integration of steelworker cast, but this was the only time they spoke. The community cast of teenagers, however give some assured performances of tales from industrial lands similar to Wales around the world.
Port Talbot has become a ghost town at the hands of the world globalisation. These men who have lost their jobs lose their dignity and pride and are left with nothing. The scenes set in the factory portray the real camaraderie between the workers and the working class pride that is soon to be tested to the core. Sam Coombes, a former steelworker, as Kev gives a moving and heartfelt monologue about losing his job and being left desperate and desolate in an alien world he doesn’t understand. He can no longer look his family in the eye because someone in a suit picked his name out of a hat.
The set designed by Russ Henry captures the eeriness and emptiness that Port Talbot has suffered. No flowers grow here, everything has rusted over. Andy Purves’ lighting design is evocative and suitably stark within the eerie space. It is interesting that two women directed this very earthy and masculine piece. Evie Manning and Rhiannon White direct a mostly male ensemble and create an empty and ghostly atmosphere.
The whole show leads up to the final meeting when they need to decide to save jobs or save their pensions. There were a lot of heartfelt speeches, but I felt we had heard all the arguments before in the show. The scene was slightly over long especially when we had already heard all the points raised previously. This did not detract from a show that really portrayed a working class community who have been destroyed by greed and the elite who do not care for the workers who make their money for them. It is about solidarity and pride that becomes empty and hollow in the face of capitalism.
Dates: Friday 15th – Saturday 30th September 2017
Location: Byass Works, Old Dock Road, Port Talbot
By phone: 029 2037 1689
Tickets: £15, £12.50 conc, £10 local ticket