Coal. Art. Politics.


Tue 14 Oct 2014 to Sat 28 May 2016

Surreal, funny and spectacular: Black Stuff is an unsentimental exploration of life, art, coal and politics. It is a performance of fragmented stories and images that begin in Ystradgynlais and reach out through Tiger Bay to Moscow and beyond.

Black Stuff was the first piece created (in 2014) especially for Volcano’s new home venue – a large disused freezer store in Swansea High Street. It has been performed in a disused warehouse in Leith at the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe and a listed building in Cardiff Bay in May 2016, in association with Wales Millennium Centre.

An Offsite Production by Volcano Theatre.

BLACK STUFF played at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, at the Biscuit Factory in association with Forest Fringe, 14th – 28th August 2015. 

Surreal, funny and spectacular: Black Stuff is an unsentimental exploration of life, art, coal and politics from Wales’s most consistently inventive performance company. With the demise of our heavy industries and with a bitter taste still lingering in the mouth thirty years after the miners’ strike, we are not content just to be brassed off or to dance our cares away.

Directed by Paul Davies
Movement Director: Catherine Bennett
Design: Cadi Lane
Lighting Design: Ben Stimpson
Production Manager: Dan Taylor
Performers: Rhys McLellan; Neal McWilliams; Barbara Sarmiento Araña; Aled Bidder 
Video: Erin Rickard
Original Sound: Adam Howell
Thanks to Betty Rae Watkins, Sarah Pace and the Josef Herman Art Foundation Cymru

"A reflection on the coal industry that shaped South Wales, staged on a warehouse floor half covered in a thick, jagged layer of anthracite – seemed like a flashback to a Richard Demarco event of the early 1990s, all vivid splashes of red against black in a dim, dramatically-lit found space, fascinating in its determination to recall the range of international links and migrations fuelled by the coal industry."

"Irresistible black seam of Welsh energy shovelled into audiences' jaw-dropped gobs by anarchic sons+daughters of Thatchers ghost."

This production began when Betty Rae Watkins arrived in our space with a bunch of manuscripts written by her uncle, Dai Alexander. The Hangman’s Assistant, written in 1946 and published in a number of anthologies of Welsh prose, caught my attention. It is only four pages long and begins in predictable fashion, but then lurches in an entirely unexpected way in the direction of surrealism and terror. I was then introduced by another (far better known) Welsh Dai to the “Treherbert Tarzan” Ron Berry, and Black Stuff came into view. You might find the show obscure, noisy and dirty, but then, in my view, contemporary Wales has enough poetry and pity to last. We need other ways of describing our memories and our futures.

Image by Jonathan Littlejohn
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