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From: The Socialist issue 921, 19 October 2016: NHS at breaking point

Search site for keywords: Theatre - Working class - War - Arts - Socialist - Spain - Sport - Fascism - Manchester - Oldham

Theatre: Dare Devil Rides to Jarama

Moving, funny and inspiring tribute to working class heroism

Clem Beckett in 1929

Clem Beckett in 1929   (Click to enlarge)

Becci Heagney, Salford Socialist Party

Adelante! "Forever forward" - the motto of an ordinary man from Oldham who did extraordinary things, and lost his life in the Spanish civil war.

'Dare Devil Rides to Jarama' is a moving, funny and inspiring account of the life of Clem 'Dare Devil' Beckett. It is a great feat considering the cast is just two people, but portrays with realism dirt track races, mass protests and war.

Commissioned by the International Brigade Memorial Trust and backed by general union Unite, Socialist Party members Neil Gore and Louise Townsend wrote and directed the play for the war's 80th anniversary.

Audience participation in 'I'm a Rambler', 'Lancashire Lads' and 'The Internationale' helps tell the story of Clem's involvement in mass trespass, driving Oswald Mosley out of Manchester, and fighting fascism in Spain. I saw it in a theatre only a couple of miles down the road from where Clem was born; one of his nieces was in the audience.

As a member of the Young Communist League, he wrote for the Communist Party's newspaper, the Daily Worker. And he unionised his workplace - the speedway track!

As the sport became more popular, businessmen took control and pushed young drivers to risk their lives without proper training and many were killed. Clem set up the Dirt Track Riders Association to organise the riders, but was eventually blacklisted from the sport in Britain.

He travelled to Germany, Den-mark and the Soviet Union where he competed in races, broke world records - and bones! - and met Communist Party members across Europe. When he heard of the International Brigades going to help the war against fascism in Spain, he didn't hesitate to sign up.

The first half of 'Dare Devil' shows that it was ordinary people, politicised by their life experiences, who were drawn into struggle throughout the 1930s. Clem could have had fame and money, but he gave that up because of his commitment to socialist ideas.

The second half is set in Spain and, through the experience of Clem and his friend Christopher, shows the frustration that many felt during the civil war. They wanted to fight, but there was lack of organisation, training and decent weapons. "This gun is shit and if it jams, you're fucked!"

Ending with Clem's death at the Battle of Jarama, it is a timely reminder, on the 80th anniversary, of the sacrifices working class people have made.

The Spanish civil war displayed the heroism and instinctive international solidarity of working class people. This play is a wonderful tribute to those people.


October

20 Chilwell Arts Centre, Beeston

21 The Lansdown Hall, Stroud

22 The Seagull, Lowestoft

24-29 The Bussey Building, Peckham, London

30 The Marx Memorial Library, Clerkenwell, London (extracts and songs only)

November

1 Hertford Theatre

2 Wedgwood Rooms, Southsea

3 The Plough Arts Centre, Great Torrington

4 Dorchester Arts Centre

5 Bridport Arts Centre

7 Theatre Royal Margate

10 The Civic, Barnsley

11 Witham Hall, Barnard Castle

12 Cast, Doncaster

13 Severn Theatre, Shrewsbury

14 -19 Lantern Theatre, Sheffield

22 -23 St Michael's Irish Centre, Liverpool

25 Assembly Rooms, Barton

26 Swanland Village Hall

29 Lighthouse, Poole

30 The Place, Bedford

December

1 Square Chapel, Halifax

2 The Hat Factory, Luton

3 Ruskin College, Oxford

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Article dated 19 October 2016

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