NOWADAYS, the streamlined, slickly marketed Co-opŠ has shed its cosy image as it finds a niche in a murderously competitive retail world.
In fact, most modern customers – as a character in this new Mikron show comments – are probably unaware of the co-operative principles on which the business is still run.
Therefore, one of the valuable functions of Fair Trade is that it not only shows how radical the concept of co-operation was, when it was first fully developed in 1844, but also how central – sometimes suffocatingly so – the Co-op once was to the lives of towns and villages throughout the country.
The Marsden-based Mikron performs a wonderful function in telling stories, with song, drama and comedy, from the social history of Britain. The story of the co-operative movement is one of the biggest, and writer-director Mike Lucas has attempted a real epic sweep, from the Rochdale Pioneers to the Co-op as it is today.
Maybe he has attempted to cram too much in (although there ought to have been rather more on problems such as adulteration of food and various economic factors which led to the birth of co-operation).
But Fair Trade, performed with great verve and versatility by Gemma Ryan, Erica Rogers, Daniel Wexler and Adrian Palmer, is a tight and pacy production with a lot of humour, often used to puncture excessive piety – as in a funny sketch when a modern shopper is driven mad by all the ethical, environmental issues he is supposed to bear in mind.
Faultlessly played to a capacity audience, Fair Trade is another excellent achievement by Mikron.