ACT I SCENE 1
NEW BUTE SEAM OPENED AT ELY PIT IN PENYGRAIG BY THE NAVAL COLLIERY COMPANY, PART OF THE CAMBRIAN COMBINED CARTEL. EARLY MORNING, 1909. 70 WORKERS ARE SIGNED UP FOR THE NEW SCHEME OF PIECEWORK. IN ORDER TO MAKE ENDS MEET, RHIANNON IS DRESSED AS A MAN WITH THE NAME RHI.
ARON: Look at this place! What a bloody mess!
RHI: (POINTING AT THE PIT) Da! There’s a stone band running through it. Gonna be difficult to work on this one.
ARON: (WALKING TOWARDS MARC) What did you sign me up for? What fresh new Hell is this, Marc?
MARC: Hell? No! Just the opposite, old sport! This is a manifestation of the genius that is our company director; this is the very soul and frontier of innovation; this is the apogee of Capitalism in all its glory. You lot should be honoured and grateful to be given this opportunity to be part of something new. It’s a trial period for a new working scheme. Your pay will be based on the coal you extracted per ton.
LEWIS: So more coal more pay?
MARC: Precisely! Ain’t ya a bright young ‘un. Exciting times, this is! Your performances would set an example for future workers’ wages.
LEWIS: What if anyone fails to reach a certain amount?
MARC: Then the company would give an allowance to the miner in question to make up his pay to the minimum that was required in order to live.
RHI: What if anyone falls ill?
MARC: Well, that’s on you. And there’s plenty of ye. (LOOKING DOWN AT THE MINERS IN DESPISE)
RHI: You fucking… (RAISES HAND)
ARON: (HOLDS RHI BACK) No, son! Let it go!
MARC: Listen to your old man, if you want some bread in that bag of bones.
RHI: Motherfcuker! Da, let go of me! Let me teach Porky a lesson!
MARC: Porky? Ha! Better to have plenty to eat, no? I must say, Rhion. For a man, you have got your da’s good looks, and your ma’s too. But what can good looks get a man, eh? At the end of the day, they all get smothered in black. Like your mate Sooty here. (SPITS IN FRONT OF LEWIS)
RHI: (KICKING AND STRUGGLING) Yeah? These faces of black will spill your blood of crimson!
MARC: Is that a threat?
RHI: Threat? No, I am fucking telling you in your face. You traitor of the working men, your time will come! Your time will bloody come!
ACT I SCENE 2
THE DRAGOS ARE AT THEIR FAMILY HOME WITH LEWIS.
LEWS: Rhi, thank you for standing up for me today. You didn’t have to.
RHIANNON: I was standing up for all of us. What does colour matter when you are a freeman? All that pathetic creature could do is dishing out his bitter words.
GAYNOR: You had another run-in with that horrendous man? Jesus Christ! God bless your relentless soul lass but you are not doing anyone any favours by angering with the overseer.
RHIANNON: Ma, low in class and wages that we are but never low in dignity and spirit. And I was definitely not put on this Earth to please that nasty piece of work!
ARON: Yes, better to die on your feet than to live on your knees, I agree. But lass, I worry if it turns violent, you may get hurt, worse, if they realize you are a girl, they may punish you for what you do not deserve.
RHIANNON: Good no one grassed me up so far then. But that’s not the point! Why? Why not women?
RHYS: There are more than enough men for the job. They are just about to tolerate you because they all grew up to accept you as one of the lads. For other girls, I’m not so sure. It is, after all, a very physically demanding job.
RHIANNON: But if I can do it, surely many others can too.
RHYS: Theoretically, yes. If I was in charge, it’d already happened. But these people, the owners, are calculating devils. Are they not? If they realize there are women in the workforce, they will probably use it as an excuse for the so-called ‘low output’ and further cut our wages. Have they not make a farce about that already.
ARON: Listen to your brother, think about others. We have to see the bigger picture, my lass. Maybe sometime in the future things will change, perhaps even in your lifetime. But for now, unfortunately, it is what it is.
RHIANNON: It is what it is? Da, when did you become so dark and pessimistic?
ARON: No, not pessimistic, pragmatic.
RHIANNON: Say no more. (STANDS UP AND PICK UP SHOULDER BAG)
RHYS: Rhi, wait, it is dark already. Where are you going?
RHIANNON: You know where. And don’t follow me! (OPENS THE DOOR AND LEAVES)
GAYNOR: It’s getting cold, put your coat on. (PICKS UP A COAT AND RUNS AFTER RHIANNON, COMES BACK WITH THE COAT) There, gone already. Sharpe as a razor, stubborn as an ox. Yet still, wouldn’t change a thing, not a thing!
ACT I SCENE 3
IN THE HILLS AMONG THE TREES. RHIANNON IS WALKING WITH A TORCH IN ONE HAND AND CARRYING A BAG ON HER SHOULDER. SHE GATHERS SOME WILD APPLES AND WALKS PAST A ROWAN TREE, THEN STOPS, LOOKS AROUND AND WHISTLES. TWO WELSH MOUNTAIN PONIES ARE CHARGING TOWARD HER FROM DEEPER IN THE FOREST.
RHIANNON: Hey my beauties, there you are! I got you some apples. Here, enjoy! (GENTLY LAYING THE APPLES ON THE GROUND)
THE PONIES SNIFF HER AND RUB THEIR HEADS ON HER THEN DIG INTO THE APPLES.
Lili, how are you, eh? And you Enid, how’s your week been? Mine was not so nice but I forget all my troubles every time I’m in your presence. You pure and fair creatures, if only our world could be like yours. (PAUSE) Who’s there! (RAISES HER TORCH AND LOOKS BACK)
MERERID: (RAISES HER HANDS) My child, I’m only an old woman. My name is Mererid, I mean you no harm. Please do not be alarmed.
RHIANNON: (BRING THE TORCH CLOSE TO ILLUMINATE THE OLD WOMAN’S FACE) Curious! What’s an old woman doing in the hills at this hour?
MERERID: I live in the hills, my dear. I followed the ponies to you. I see you are feeding them apples. Bless, what a kind soul!
RHIANNON: They are yours? I hope you don’t mind me feeding them. I thought they were wild.
MERERID: Oh no, not at all, I don’t mind, neither do I own them. They are as free as the birds and the air, and they do wherever they fancy. I just look after them, like you! They spend much of their days around my hut and sometimes when they run off to a whistle, I wanted to find out to whom they ran.
RHIANNON: Oh yes, naturally. I understand! Now you know they are safe. It’s wonderful that you keep an eye on these lovelies. They bonded with me the instant I found them.
MERERID: That’s miraculous! They are timid creatures, very rarely do they come up to strangers. You must be special, my dear.
RHIANNON: Special? Nah! I’m many things and all kinds of awkward but never special. (LAUGHS WHILE SHAKING HER HEAD)
MERERID: Come closer, my child. Come! Let me have a good look at you.
RHIANNON: (MOVES CLOSER) Ok. Can you see better now, Mererid?
MERERID: Hmm, yes, yes, I see. My instinct was right, special that you are! You breathe the fire of the Red Dragon.
RHIANNON: Whatever do you mean, Mererid?
MERERID: I meant the things that only my kind can see. Strange things, divine things, unholy things, things that lurk in the dark, things that hunt man’s dreams, things that forge destinies.
RHIANNON: You have powers? Powers of magic? You are a druid?
MERERID: Ay, and a seer no less!
RHIANNON: A seer! Most curious! I have heard of your kind but never encountered one of you in flesh.
MERERID: Well, I’m honoured to be the first, but I will almost definitely not be the last. There’s greatness in you, my fair child. In time, you will gain greater knowledge of your path, for now, trust in all that you do! (TURNS AND WALKS OFF WITH THE PONIES)
RHIANNON: Are you leaving?
MERERID: Ay, you should too. It’s getting darker. But worry not, we shall meet again. Until then, take care!
RHIANNON: You too, Mererid! (WAVES GOODBYE)
ACT I SCENE 4
AT Bute Seam, ELY PIT, PENYGRAIG. LATE AFTERNOON. SEVERAL MONTHS INTO THE TEST PERIOD OF THE NEW SEAM.
MARC: This isn’t going to work out for you lot. You are working too slowly.
ARON: But we are working at a normal pace, Marc. Can’t you see?
MARC: Yeah, I see. What I see is, this isn’t normal. It is far too slow.
ARON: But we’ve tried our best. There’s a stone band running through the middle of the seam and there are abnormal places that are very difficult to work with.
MARC: Well, that’s your problem, isn’t it? Solve it or live with it. Anyway, your low productivity will be reflected in your wages.
RHI: Says who?
MARC: The owners. (POINTING HIS FINGER UP)
RHI: To who no doubt you shall poison their thoughts with your verminous tongue and sell us short as usual!
MARC: Oh trust me, they are quite capable of dipping you deep in misery. They don’t need my help with that. I’m merely here to observe and report.
RHI: Is that so?
MARC: That is so. (NODS)
RHI: Then you are not reporting truthfully.
MARC: The truth? Ha! What is the price of truth per ton these days?
RHI: God bears my witness, I will get you, one of those days!
MARC: Yeah, yeah, whatever, get back to work, ya dirty piece of shit! (SPIT)
ACT I SCENE 5
NAVAL COLLIERY COMPANY HEADQUARTERS, MINERS GATHERED OUTSIDE DEMANDING ANSWERS TO THE LOW WAGE RATE. MARC IS STANDING OUTSIDE.
RHYS: Marc, fancy seeing you here!
MARC: Ha! I’ve been expecting you lot!
RHYS: Is the wage rate a joke? How the hell did you get such a low number?
MARC: You should know, don’t you?
RHYS: But we don’t. Why don’t you enlighten us? Hmm?
MARC: The owners are unhappy with the Bute Seam lot deliberately slacking off in order to stretch the working hours longer. If you want anyone to blame, blame them.
RHI: Don’t you dare play the blame game! We are not falling for your divide and conquer horseshit! And nobody at the Bute Seam is slacking off.
MARC: Still, I’m not surprised by a sissy of a man like you in the workforce.
RHI: Yeah? So? I still beat your arse, you dimwit! Don’t you realize, the accusation is just nonsensical.
RHI: Ay! Under the new scheme, we are paid per ton of coal extracted, yes?
RHI: Then the hours are futile in the calculation of wages, aren’t they?
MARC: Well, I’m not an accountant. But one thing I do know is your output is not measuring up to the expected rate.
ARON: But we have families to feed, Marc. Can you please talk to the owner?
MARC: I’m not in a position to do that, Aron, it’s out of my hands. (RAISING HIS HANDS)
ARON: Can you please try?
RHYS: Da, don’t beg him. (REACHES OUT AN ARM, HOLDING ARON BACK)
MARC: That’s right, don’t beg me. Listen to your lad. So go home, all of you.
ACT I SCENE 6
OUTSIDE ELY PIT OWNED BY NAVAL COLLIERY COMPANY IN PENYGRAIG, PART OF THE CAMBRIAN COMBINED CARTEL, RHONDDA, SOUTH WALES. SEPTEMBER 01, 1910. EARLY MORNING. A LOCK-OUT NOTICE ON THE GATE AND ALL 950 MINERS ARE LOCKED OUT.
BRAN: Heavy chains and padlocks. The gates are shut dead and we are locked out cold. I’ve walked around and checked, there is no other way in. What kind of new shenanigan is this? I’m bent to know!
EMRYS: Those bastards must have locked it last night after we left! But still, they let us take all the trouble to get up betimes ere the cockerels crow, tooled up under the candlelight and walked all the way from home on the long muddy road. Not a word, not even a damn word!
BRAN: So this is it, they have decided that they are not going to increase the wages to meet our demands.
EMRYS: But the wages based on the new scheme is a joke! It’s much lower than a living wage.
RHYS: We are all in this together now.
EMRYS: Seems like so. Anyway, none of us has any choice.
RHYS: Unbelievable! Another day’s pay is gone and who knows how many more! Have we not explained our troubles? Are our wages not low enough? Are we not made of flesh and bones? Damn cowards! Deaf ears! Poisonous minds! Year after year, one trick after another, they take food out of our children’s mouths, trying to drain the last drop of blood from our veins. Have they no hearts or balls to tell us face to face! Man to man! And now what? I have had enough of this!
CROWD CLAMOURING, TOOLS CLANKING IN MIDAIR AMONG THE DOTTED BURNING TORCHES.
ALL MINERS: Yeah! Enough is enough! We want an answer! Let’s take this to the boss!
RHYS: Brothers! Let’s strike! Let’s march! Let’s do our might! Together, we demand justice! Justice that will not be dictated by their flights of fancy, justice that will be on our terms, justice that shall redeem our toils and sacrifices!
ARON: Son, are you sure this is wise?
RHYS: Wise? Perhaps not so much, but old man, will your wisdom save us? If not, then silence!
ALL MINERS: We are with Rhys! Let’s strike! let’s march!
EMRYS: Yes, lead us, Rhys! There’s no going back. Our trust is in your hands!
BRAN: Lead us, Rhys! We are great in numbers. Let’s rock the boat! Let’s bring them to the ground! Let’s strike wooden stakes through those bloodsuckers’ stone-cold hearts.
RHYS: (FIST IN THE AIR, SHOUTING OUT LOUDLY) Up to you now, lads. Yea or nay? Yea or nay?
ALL MINERS: (FISTS RISING IN THE AIR) Yea! Yea! Rhys! Rhys! Rhys!
RHYS: Then no time to lose, we have mouths to feed! Let’s do this!
All MINERS: Huzzah!
ACT I SCENE 7
MINERS STRIKE AT THE ELY PIT WITH A PICKETING LINE AT THE FRONT. STRIKEBREAKERS FROM OUTSIDE THE AREA ORDERED BY THE CAMBRIAN COMBINED ARE COMING IN.
MARC: (ARRIVEs FOR WORK WITH THE STRIKEBREAKERS, UNABLE TO GET IN) What the hell is this?
RHYS: What is this? What is this? Well, guess what, Marc? We are back! And this, is karma!
MARC: You don’t want to feed your families, fine. These men do.
RHYS: Don’t you guilt trip me, you bastard. Nobody is going in. Not today. (SHAKES HEAD)
MARC: Look, I have no quarrel with you, Rhys. Let me clock in, will you?
RHYS: You want to clock in?
RHYS: Yes, what? (RAISES HAND BEHIND HIS EAR)
RHYS: What should we do, boys?
RHYS: You heard that, Marc. It’s out of my hands, so why don’t you get the fuck out of here? And take your little band of traitors with ya.
MARC: Your behaviour will be reported.
RHYS: Yeah? Fuck off to write up your petty little report then. Come on, what are you waiting for? Get on with it. Off you go!
MARC: You are finished.
RHYS: Yeah? We will see, won’t we?
ACT I SCENE 8
NOVEMBER 01, 1910. LATE EVENING. SOUTH WALES MINERS FEDERATION, 12,000 COLLIERS HOLDING TORCHES AND WAITING FOR THE STRIKE BALLOT RESULT.
RHYS: (HOLDS UP A PIECE OF PAPER) Ladies and gentlemen, this is the moment you all have been waiting for. The people of South Wales Coalfield have spoken, and the ballot result is…
CACOPHONY DIES DOWN IN THE CROWD FOLLOWED BY DEAFENING SILENCE.
Yes! We shall go on strike!
FISTS IN THE AIR EVERYWHERE IN A SEA OF LOUD CHEERING AND TORCH FLAMES.
Cambrian Combine’s offers were not acceptable. Whatever they are throwing at us, we are ready! We are shutting down all the mines, forming picketing lines and we are asking all our brothers and sisters to put your short term personal gains aside and join our struggle for survival for all. Together, we outnumber them; together, we shall triumph; together, we are one! And We will not stop until we reach our goals. You have my word!
ACT I SCENE 9
AT THE MINERS’ HEADQUARTERS
BRAN: (POINTING AT A MAP ON THE TABLE) There’s another month old strike at Aberdare in Cynon Valley involving 11,000 miners. The Glamorgan Constabulary's resources are overstretched and their chief is getting desperate.
RHYS: Yeah? That’s good, right?
BRAN: Yes and no. If they don’t get reinforcement from out of the area then they are of no match to us in numbers.
RHYS: And if they do?
BRAN: We may have a handful but nothing that we can’t handle.
ARON: What if they use weapons on us?
BRAN: There’s always a chance that things will go ugly. We need to be prepared for that but I reckon it is very unlikely. They don’t want workers’ blood on their hands, otherwise, it will be a whole other kind of monster they will be dealing with.
ARON: But we are just miners and we are unarmed. How are we going to… God, a bloodbath on domestic soil? O, the horror! I can not imagine.
RHYS: Let’s hope not, eh da? We will just have to prepare, evolve and adapt as it goes, yeah?
BRAN: Yeah. Prepare, evolve and adapt.
RHYS: Emrys, I heard the mine in Llwynypia is still open?
EMRYS: Yeah, they are going to send in more strikebreakers to keep the pump and ventilation.
RHYS: Bastards! Same old, same old. Well, gentlemen. (LOOKS UP WITH A WRY SMILE) Let’s do something about that, shall we?