A NEW play is being staged to mark one of the blackest days in the history of South Shields.
Friday, June 28 will mark the 175th anniversary of the St Hilda Colliery disaster in South Shields, when an explosion claimed the lives of 51 men and boys – the youngest just nine years old.
Some of the 38 families affected lost more than one relative, and the disaster left 19 women widowed and 44 children fatherless.
The Customs House, in Mill Dam, South Shields, is to commemorate the tragedy with a new community play, Cold in the Clay, which will tell the story through the eyes of one family and through verbatim accounts reported in the press at the time.
It will run at the venue from June 27 to 29 and was written by Peter Lathan, who also wrote and directed The Mysteries, the 2012 community play at Arbeia Roman Fort, and I (Heart) ST, which celebrated 2,000 years of the history of South Tyneside in 2013.
Cold in the Clay will be directed by Peter and Helen F Dobson, and will be performed in St Hilda’s Church, just a stone’s throw from where the pit (originally called the Church Pit) was.
The Customs House community plays use amateur actors with a professional creative team, and the theatre is looking for cast members.
Peter said: “We have an excellent group of people who have taken part in the two previous community plays.
“Most are amateurs, but there are also some young professionals who want to gain more experience.
“This show is going to be a lot bigger, there are more than 60 speaking parts, although some have only one or two lines, so we are inviting anyone who would like to be involved to get in touch.
“Our policy has always been that anyone who wants to take part will do so. They will be asked to audition but that will be to see what part, or parts, they are best suited to.”
Auditions will take place at the Customs House in the coming weeks on a Sunday afternoon.
If you are interested or would like further information, contact Peter Lathan by e-mail at email@example.com
Tickets are £10 with a £9 concession, or £7 for Friends of the Customs House members.
To book, go to www.thecustomshouse.co.uk or call the box office on 454 1234.