Gary Clarke’s WASTELAND comes to the MAC, celebrating the birth of UK rave culture

Capturing a pivotal moment in social history, acclaimed choreographer Gary Clarke’s explosive WASTELAND explores that time when despair turned into euphoria as the ravaged landscape of post-industrial Britain was transformed by the illegal rave culture of the 1990s and for an instant, it seemed music and dance might save the day.

Created to mark the 25th anniversary of the demolition of Grimethorpe Colliery in South Yorkshire and 30 years since the rise of UK rave culture, WASTELAND is a thrilling yet deeply touching dance theatre production and the eagerly-awaited sequel to Clarke's multi-award winning hit COAL.

Now, following a critically acclaimed autumn launch, WASTELAND comes to Belfast as part of its winter and spring tour, with performances at the MAC, Thurs 27 & Fri 28 April 2023.

The striking miners of COAL fought for their families, their livelihoods, their communities, their futures and for an industry…but what happened to the families who survived the epic year-long battle of the Miners’ Strike of 1984/85?

WASTELAND looks at how two different generations coped in this turbulent era of radical upheaval as industrial Britain fell and a new subculture emerged.

As one generation grinds exhaustedly to a halt, the next generation heads into the illegal rave scene of 1990s Britain, where derelict warehouses and abandoned work spaces become home for a new community of music and dance.

For our generation, the future was very bleak with very little prospect. The rave culture gave many of us the opportunity to escape these grim and grey realities and into a new world of music and dance where we could express our inner feelings, desires and frustrations. My passion for dance grew from this discovery.” Gary Clarke

In 1994, Gary Clarke joined family, friends and neighbours to witness the downfall of Grimethorpe Colliery, an act of ruination that not only marked another nail in the coffin of Britain’s mining industry but also added to the destruction of the working-class community that surrounded it.

WASTELAND is based on Gary’s own experience of reaching maturity at the height of the rave movement and also on many hours of interviews with former miners and with people who, like him, found escape through rave’s music and alternative subculture.

And by studying the movement of rave captured in archive footage, he found a way to take something improvised, spontaneous and free and transform into a structural but still exhilarating form of theatre.

The show brings together Clarke's blistering physical dance language performed by a company of exceptional dancers - headed by former COAL dancer Parsifal James Hurst (PJ) as the Last Miner and Robert Anderson as The Boy - and a cast of 4 singers (apply here!) from local and surrounding communities, playing the role of the Pit Men Singers - a total of 36 men throughout the extended tour of 9 venues nationally in 2023.

Also, on stage will be two brass musicians, specially selected for every venue from the 14 championship brass bands who made such a vital and important contribution to the success of COAL.

“Like COAL communities are at the heart of WASTELAND and it felt wrong to make a new show about communities without involving them." Gary Clarke

Rare archive film footage brings the era to life - capturing both the tragedy of mining’s last days and the exhilaration of rave’s roots - along with a powerful rave sound score by Charles Webber (who also created Lighting and VJ designs) and unique artwork by Jimmy Cauty, co-founder of The KLF.

Jimmy Cauty’s appropriated police riot shields were first created for the Occupy St Pauls eviction in 2012.

Later the Smiley Riot Shields artwork was seen to enormous acclaim in fellow artist Banksy’s Dismaland and WASTELAND will be another opportunity to see these iconic pieces in action.

“It’s not an offence to own a Jimmy Cauty Smiley Riot Shield but it may be an offence to use the artwork in a riot.” Jimmy Cauty

Bringing all this together into one unforgettable and compelling night of dance theatre, WASTELAND dives head first into a hedonistic story of loss, hope, escapism and survival.

“To get anything that you need and anything that you believe in, it’s got to be worth fighting for - if it isn’t worth fighting for it isn’t worth doing.” A former coal miner

WASTELAND reunites the production and creative team that made COAL such a major hit with both critics and audiences.

The producer of WASTELAND is Gary Clarke’s long-time mentor and collaborator Annabel Dunbar.

Dramaturgy is by Lou Cope, with costumes and set by designer Ryan Dawson Laight and other sound design by Daniel Thomas.

Musical Direction is once again by Steven Roberts, bringing outstanding community singers and brass musicians to the stage at each venue.

Gary Clarke Company dancers WASTELAND 2023 are: Parsifal James Hurst, Robert Anderson, Emily Thompson Smith, Patricia Langa, Shelley Eva Haden and Jake Evans.

What the critics have said about WASTELAND in 2019:

"Blisteringly fierce" ★★★★ Mary Brennan, The Herald (Scotland)

“A poignant and thrilling portrait of the British rave scene” ★★★★ Eliza Gearty, The Skinny

“Brilliant” ★★★★★ Mark Brown, The Herald on Sunday (Scotland)

“Wasteland is a truly wonderful piece of dance-theatre: humane, politically charged, by turns funny and sad.” ★★★★★ Anna Winter, The Stage

“an ambitious, carefully crafted, visceral dance-theatre treatment of a crucial time in the history of modern Britain, that more than justifies its belief in dance as a vehicle for ideas and social commentary.”
★★★★ Teresa Guerreiro, Culture Whisper

“dance taken at a barnstorming, frantic pace with a sharp political edge to boot… its picture of alienated youth rising from the ashes and finding both escape and a sense of purpose in the hedonistic release of rave culture is curiously uplifting.” ★★★★ Keith Watson, Metro

“This is a powerful, accomplished piece of dance theatre and a timely reminder of the social consequences of political actions.” ★★★★ Jonathan Cash, The Reviews Hub

Book to see WASTELAND at the MAC.