The Wednesday Play: The Price of Coal – Parts 1 and 2 (1977)

We’re nearing the end of our brief Ken Loach season, but this week I’m going to use up two of the remaining plays in one go, as they’re a two-parter. 1977’s The Price of Coal was written by Loach’s Kes writing partner Barry Hines and is set in Yorkshire colliery community.

The first part, Meet The People, is a slightly comic affair, with management trying to enlist the miners in sprucing up the pithead in preparation for a visit by Prince Charles. A strangely comic affair for both Hines and Loach, it sees Loach abandon his documentary style of filming in favour of something a bit more Czech new wave that’s merely content to observe, although Loach did do his usual trick of casting some non-actors in key roles, drawing on some local stand-up comics when casting his humorous miners (Duggie Brown, Bobby Knutt, Stan Richards and Jackie Shinn).

The second part, set just a month later, reverts a bit more towards the Loach mean, with an underground explosion at the colliery killing several miners, the play then following the attempts to rescue others than remain trapped.