COAL is the work Gary Clarke has been waiting his whole career to create. Clarke grew up in the mining town of Grimethorpe in the 80s and witnessed how the dispute divided and devastated the community. Unlike his school friends Clarke found an escape through dance, entering local disco competitions and eventually becoming a real life Billy Elliot as he trained with The Northern School of Contemporary Dance. Now one of the UK’s leading contemporary choreographers, he has returned to his past to tell the story of his people in this show that is coming to Contact Theatre.
A quick look at the COAL production images is all it takes to see this is a dance show with a difference. Dirty, muscular and raw, the energy of the performance jumps straight off the page and into your brain. The show also makes use of local people from each community it visits, adding an authenticity that you don’t often get in dance works.
For all that it mourns the past COAL is also a celebration of a way of life that is no longer with us. Yes it was brutal, backbreaking work, but mining created a sense of community cohesion that is missing from much of modern life.