Winner of the Charles Wintour Award for Most Promising Playwright at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards 2014.
"She has the gifts to become one of our most searching political playwrights."
Praise for Labyrinth:
Beth Steel scored a big hit in 2014 with Wonderland, which examined the scars left by the miners’ strike 30 years earlier. In Labyrinth, she again goes back to the 1980s, this time to probe the Latin American debt crisis. The result is a racily exciting work that offers the most compelling theatrical study of high finance since Lucy Prebble’s Enron and which suggests chilling parallels with what is happening today in the eurozone. ... This is invigorating, informative stuff. ****
This fizzing play by the ultra-talented Beth Steel is set in New York but its core feels more Middle America. ... full of fire-in-the-blood swagger. ****
Labyrinth is Latin America's wildly entertaining answer to Wall Street ... richly researched, it’s insistently useful and almost indecently entertaining. ****
Steel sets about her Rake’s Progress story with panache. Her hero, John, is a baby-faced banker initiated into the sharp practices of flogging dodgy loans to Latin American gangsters and dictators in the 1970s, ahead of the Eighties’ crash. ... Steel is the author of Wonderland, the Hampstead theatre’s previous hit about the miners’ strike. Once again she wears her research lightly, painting a rogues’ gallery of top-of-the-range spivs in a world of sex, drugs and sub-prime loans. ****
Praise for Wonderland:
The verve and humanity of the piece are never in doubt and Hall’s gripping production often achieves great dramatic power. ... This is a play and a production of rare power and theatrical flair and one this crusty old Tory recommends wholeheartedly. ****
What is impressive about Steel’s play is that, while her emotional sympathies are with the miners, she also shows how they were totally out-manoeuvred by the Thatcher government. ... The overwhelming impression left by Steel’s play is of the unhealed scars left by the strike. Steel goes to great pains to show the physical danger of mining and the communal spirit it engenders. But there is an immense sadness to the way strikebreaking severs old friendships. ... What is remarkable is not only Steel’s skill in resurrecting the divisions of the 1984 strike but also in showing the destruction of a proudly defiant community. ****
Marking the 30th anniversary of the miners’ strike, Beth Steel’s ambitious, sprawling, impassioned play transports its audience down into the half-light and infernal heat of a Nottinghamshire pit among men who for generations risked their lives in backbreaking toil. ... Scenes of miners labouring, bantering, showering off the dirt that streaks their bodies — or dangling in the lift in the dark during a power cut — collide with conversations in which they have no voice, yet which will alter their lives forever. ... Wonderland is theatre of grit and guts. ****
Whereas other drama about this era has had a more intensely personal focus on miners’ lives, Steel, herself the daughter of a miner, aims for a slightly more cool-eyed, 360-degree overview. To this end we have spheres of action both below and above ground. For the former, we follow a group of Nottinghamshire miners forward from the induction of two new recruits, whereas in the latter key government figures plot anti-Scargill strategy. ****
This powerful play about the 1984-85 miners’ strike and the profound cultural change that Thatcher’s defeat of the NUM betokened comes with the endorsement of David Hare. He is quoted in the publicity as saying that “Beth Steel, in a commanding Main Stage debut, illuminates corners of a story you think you know but don’t”.
I would add that, in this piece, the 30 year old Steel, whose father is Nottinghamshire miner, also honours Shelley’s principle that art should help us to “imagine that which we know”. ... Steel portrays this with gritty wit, strong sentiment (as opposed to sentimentality) and a poetic wonder at the vastness of geological time. ... The final section of the play is almost too painful to watch. You come to realise that Steel is locating in this symbolic moment of defeat the start of the steady erosion of workers’ rights that has resulted in the current culture of zero-hour contracts. ****
Miss Steel weaves high-political moments between scenes of comradely Nottinghamshire mine work. ... The ruinous cost of the miners’ strike is laid bare — the cost not only in communities but also, says Miss Steel, of policing and higher energy prices elsewhere. ****
Praise for Ditch:
What's impressive about Steel's play – and Richard Twyman's compelling production – is the expert control of mood. A glinting, compassionate humour and a nicely insubordinate sense of absurdity complicates its grim near-future vision... Ditch certainly takes you on an indelibly strange mental journey.
Beth Steel writes powerfully and persuasively, and I admire the way she leaves the audience to pick up what is going on in her dystopian dramatic world through passing references in the dialogue rather than turgid exposition...The play grips...Steel’s grim vision of the future is both detailed and compelling, and there are outstanding performances by the six-strong cast. You leave Ditch with a shiver, and it isn’t just caused by the coldness of the location.
A dramatic finale that drew gasps of astonishment from some audience members, Beth Steel's debut explores the minutiae of living when few mod cons beyond radio remain, though jets roar overhead. It also allows us to ponder the likely regression that occurs in ordinary people after civilisation as we know it disintegrates.
The British Theatre Guide