About the show

Set against the backdrop of the Sheffield Blitz of World War II, this drama tells the story of four ordinary men in extraordinary times. Part of 59E59's 2018 'Brits Off Broadway' series,

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On the December 12, 1940, a single bomb reduced the Marples Hotel from seven stories to just 15 feet of rubble. Only one of the ten compartments in the hotel's cellars withstood the blast. Trapped within it were four men. This is their story, from beginning to end.

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See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

London Theatre1

for a previous production "An amazing play about ordinary people involved, against their will, in momentous events...Having met Arthur, Bob, Tommy, and Phil, I really feel like I was there with them...Over the course of the production, the audience gets to know each one of them intimately...Fantastic from start to finish which manages to humanise an inhumane event perfectly...This really is theatre at its absolute best." Full Review

British Theatre Guide

for a previous production "This is live theatre at its best. A brilliantly written play...superbly directed and performed with huge energy and sensitivity by a cast of talented actors with exceptional rapport...Shanahan takes the play at a cracking pace...and is full of invention when exploring the comic potential of the play...The four actors are impressive in different ways...A usually quite inhibited audience has risen to its feet to applaud." Full Review


for a previous production "A powerful and energetic piece, plunging the audience into the blazing centre of the steelworks and the darkness of the bombed-out hotel's basement, with clever choreography and simple yet effective lighting changes...Although the play isn't telling new stories per se, it skilfully blends its focus on those who worked in the steel industry with its depiction of the war...Whilst it packs an emotional punch, it rarely gets swamped in sentimentality." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "High-spirited discussions in Knowles’s brisk, strenuously physical depiction of male camaraderie. The play also demonstrates how the bonds formed in the foundry begin to crumble beneath the rubble of the Marples hotel...Shanahan’s high-tempo production is forged from molten flashes of industrial choreography, but does well to keep the individual characters in focus...Knowles’s close observance of the steel-making process is enough to make even riveting seem a riveting prospect." Full Review

The New York Times

for a previous production "A smashing first play...A cast of exactly four, on a near naked stage, managed to summon the enormity of the Sheffield Blitz in 1940...Directed with exactitude and intensity...They map a journey into night that also encompasses an entire, detailed way of life at a certain time, in a certain place...The German bombs tear a hole in rhythm and time. The darkness that follows is more hauntingly eloquent than the pyrotechnics of any big-budget war movie." Full Review


for a previous production "It is through the quality of ensemble acting, movement and writing that this play stands or falls, and by and large it succeeds admirably...From the outset the pace is set fierce and furious with pages of rapid-fire inter-cut dialogue and fizzing interactive physical energy...There is plenty of rough, joshing humour and then pools of repose where each character in turn is allowed more inward moments of self-reflection. This is very assured and mature writing for a first play." Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

for a previous production "The production is great at contrasting the control the men hold over their tools in the factory – “it’s magic lads” – with their lack of power against the more ‘metalized’ identity-extinguishing soldiers showering bombs down on them...Knowles’ writing, made sharp with the barbarous humour of the Yorkshire men as they jokingly swap jibes also has a poetic almost streams of consciousness quality...This helps externalise their individual experiences of war." Full Review

Time Out London

for a previous production "'Operation Crucible’ goes at such a breakneck pace. His sharp script and Bryony Shanahan’s dynamic, textured production blast onto the intimate stage...An episodic, non-chronological structure allows us to jump into the workers’ lives, to enjoy their bombastic work banter and watch tender family portraits. The underlining sentimentality is shot through with no-nonsense humour, which saves it from being saccharine." Full Review

The Stage (UK)

for a previous production "Knowles’s mosaic-like approach assuredly builds to some gut-wrenching final moments. These later scenes are the best...In contrast, the play’s early moments, while inventive and energetic, feel breathless and rushed. But when the production slows down and has the confidence to allow quiet, stillness and its atmospheric lighting and sound to draw the audience in – it’s electrifying, personal and raw." Full Review

The London Evening Standard

for a previous production "A lot of shouting swiftly plays to diminishing returns and so it proves, frustratingly, in this promising new work...An excess of undifferentiated bellowing bedevils Bryony Shanahan’s try-too-hard production, pulling crucial focus from the narrative at key moments. When Shanahan allows the play to take a deep, calm breath and trust in Knowles’s words, as during the hugely affecting ending, it’s far more satisfying." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

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