The Gallery by Alan Plater

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BBC Radio 7, 25 August 2010
A farcical comedy about a new art gallery on Tyneside, set amongst the ruins of a shipyard and a coal-mine, The Gallery told how its grand opening was threatened by the well-meaning but ill-trained staff. Everything seemed to go wrong - the security system broke down, there was an explosion in the kitchen, while the main exhibit, a pile of ashes entitled "Ashes to Ashes" was hoovered up by cleaning-lady Norma (Tracy Wilkinson) in the mistaken belief that it was a heap of rubbish. Eventually the gallery opened, with pride of place allotted to a new "Ashes to Ashes" put together by aspiring artist Chris (Benjamin Askew) from garbage culled from the local refuse dump.
The Gallery took satirical swipes at a wide variety of targets - modern art and its pretensions (London art critic Tomlin (Malcolm Tierney) loved Chris' exhibit); the north/south divide; the patronizing view that working-class culture has been defined by heavy industries' the so-called 'solidarity' of northerners; and positive discrimination (most of the gallery's employees had been hired as they were relatives of the miners and shipworkers that used to work in the same area). We learned that the so-called 'solidarity' of the working-class was based on hatred - of the owners of the mines or shipyards, of members of government in London who had absolutely no understanding of life in the north-east, and of southerners in general, who believed that life north of Watford was not worth bothering about. Plater suggested that this kind of hatred still persisted, despite the well-meaning attempts to rebrand the north-east as a lively powerhouse of post-industrial regeneration. However the play ended farcically - which actually seemed appropriate to the prevailing mood of the previous forty minutes - with the exhibition in the art gallery being destroyed by an errant greyhound called Heathcliff with a penchant for anchovies. The director was Alison Hindell.