Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/26555

Posted on 30 November 2017 at 15:47 GMT

Theatre: We Are the Lions, Mr Manager

Dramatic retelling of Grunwick strike hits all the right notes

Medhavi Patel as Jayaben Desai in Townsend Productions' 'We Are the Lions, Mr Manager', photo by Townsend Productions

Medhavi Patel as Jayaben Desai in Townsend Productions' 'We Are the Lions, Mr Manager', photo by Townsend Productions   (Click to enlarge)

Bill Mullins, Southwark Socialist Party

This marvellous little play about Jayaben Desai, leader of the famous Grunwick strike, hits all the right notes in its retelling of one of the most important struggles in the turbulent 1970s.

Neil Gore's script works to traditional agitprop methods of bringing the events to life, but never loses anything of the dramatic and emotional battle led by Jayaben throughout the strike.

Grunwick was a defining strike. It encapsulated much of the 1970s' struggles by the working class against the employers' offensive.

What was special about it was that the bosses of the Grunwick Film Processing Laboratories in north London had deliberately set out to only employ mainly Asian women workers. They thought they could push them around more and so super-exploit their labour.

It was the courage of Jayaben and others that brought about a battle by these low-paid workers. They took strike action in response to the inhuman conditions imposed on them by George Ward, the owner of the factory.

Medhavi Patel's Jayaben is excellent. So is Neil's portrayal of a whole host of characters - particularly Jack Dromey, who was then on the left and secretary of Brent trade union council.

Both Neil and Medhavi act their hearts out with real compassion. They bring the whole period vividly to life during the couple of hours they are onstage.

Director Louise Townsend's production makes imaginative use of limited props, such as wheeling on a factory fence which portrays the pickets themselves. Footage played in the background makes up for the small size of the cast.

At one stage, Jayaben calls on the first row of the audience to join her on stage to take part in the events of the mass picket of 11 July 1977.

The play also brings out the diabolical nature of the Grunwick bosses and their right-wing supporters in the shadowy 'National Association for Freedom'.

But importantly, it features the massive support of workers throughout the country for the struggle. This includes the heroic role of postal workers at the local depot - who refused to allow sacks of mail containing processed film to go back to customers.

What was heart-breaking, though, was the cowardly role of the trade union leaders.

There was the right-wing leadership of Apex, the union the strikers joined (now part of general union GMB) and the invidious role of Trade Union Congress leaders. Throughout the strike, in the background, they tried to undermine it - because it was embarrassing to the Labour government.

Neil often accompanies his presence onstage with musical renderings - socialist songs from the time, and his own creations as well.

The name of the play - "We Are the Lions, Mr Manager" - refers to Jayaben's confrontation with the manager "Mr Jack." She responded to his slur that the factory was like a zoo with "in the zoo, Mr Jack, there are many animals.

"Some are monkeys you can dance on your fingers, and some are lions. We are the lions, Mr Jack, and we will eat you."

We Are the Lions, Mr Manager is touring the country into 2018. Visit townsendproductions.org.uk for details.


This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 30 November 2017 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.






Related links:

Theatre:

triangleThe Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists: one-man show's new take on lively socialist classic

triangleRousing, funny take on Marxism - from the man himself

triangleSting's shipbuilders showcase class pride and change from below

triangleFighting sexual harassment in entertainment

triangleTheatre: 'Young Marx' shows growth in great platform for his ideas

Strike:

triangleLadywood Primary school strike

triangleStriking Brum home carers reject 'final' pay cut offer

triangleSouth Western rail workers launch five-day safety strike to save guards

triangleCable makers' pay strike bites as production falls 33%

Union:

trianglePCS union: nominate Chris Baugh as Left Unity candidate for assistant general secretary

triangleDevon foster carers fight 30% cut in allowances

triangleNewham finance staff fight pay and grading insult

Grunwick:

triangleNew play celebrates Grunwick strike

triangleCampaign Opposing Police Surveillance: Spycops and Strikers- from Grunwick to Now

Workers:

triangleThe Socialist Inbox

Reviews and comments

Reviews and comments

17/10/18

Letters

The Socialist Inbox

10/10/18

Letters

The Socialist Inbox

10/10/18

Capitalism

The murky world of the 'Big Four' accountancy firms

3/10/18

Letters

The Socialist Inbox

3/10/18

Theatre

The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists: one-man show's new take on lively socialist classic

26/9/18

Welfare state

Powerful defence of the welfare state

26/9/18

Letters

The Socialist inbox

26/9/18

Trains

Who wants driver-only operation?

19/9/18

Letters

The Socialist inbox

19/9/18

Ireland

How Irish strikers fought apartheid - and establishment anti-apartheid leadership

12/9/18

The Socialist

The Socialist inbox

12/9/18

Football

When working class women dominated football

5/9/18

privacy

GDPR data laws: Punishing workers for human mistakes

5/9/18

Letters

The Socialist inbox

5/9/18

Care workers

A day in the life of a carer: "I am having trouble feeding my children on my wages"

triangleMore Reviews and comments articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0784 114 4890

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


October 2018

September 2018

August 2018

July 2018

June 2018

May 2018

April 2018

March 2018

February 2018

January 2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999