FOLLOWING the miners’ strike in the 80s, pits rapidly began to close throughout the North.

In 1993, Parkside Colliery was threatened with the axe and four women were determined to stop it. This is illustrated in Queens of the Coal Age at the Royal Exchange Theatre.

Anne Scargill (Arthur’s wife), Dot Kelly, Elaine Evans and Lesley Lomas were those involved. In this collaboration between the Royal Exchange and the New Vic, they are played respectively by Kate Anthony, Jane Hazlegrove, Eve Robertson and Danielle Henry.

Apart from being based on a real life incident, there is something else special about this production. It is written by Maxine Peake, the recent star of Happy Days, a challenging play by Samuel Beckett acted by her at the Royal Exchange.

What is amazing about these four feisty women is the humour they display despite being ensconced in darkness for four nights and five days.

Just ordinary women, they believe unflinchingly in their cause and will fight to the end to get their way.

The four actors work well as a team and illustrate what drives them to this action. Eventually, they reveal their innermost thoughts and troubles.

Kate Anthony is outstanding as their leader, Anne Scargill, who is utterly devoted to Women Against Pit Closures. Anne reveals how her daughter, Margaret, suffers because of Arthur’s publicised actions.

They while away the time by tidying up the manager’s office and chatting with one another and with miner, Michael (Conor Glean).

The suffocating atmosphere below ground is enhanced by images of miners, trained by movement director, Jennifer Jackson.

Saddleworth Male Voice choir make an appropriate background sound.

• Queens of the Coal Age is at the Royal Exchange Theatre until July 28, For tickets, telephone Royal Exchange Box Office at 0161 833 9833. Star rating: * * *