COAL mining has a 2,000-year history, stretching back to Roman times, as Sheffield playwright Ray Castleton is quick to point out when discussing his play On Behalf Of The People.

Castleton is aware that many would expect him to have written of Thatcher versus Scargill, the Tory government versus the National Union of Miners in the bitter, brutal strike of 1984-1985 that came to define that industrial era, consigning so many mining communities to the slag heap.

Instead, Castleton turns the miner's lamp on the immediate aftermath of the Second World War and the eight years leading up to the Coronation in 1953. This was another era of social and political change, but one of groundbreaking momentum: the Labour landslide in the 1945 election, the new building blocks of social housing and the launch of the National Health Service and the National Coal Board.

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Lizzie Frain, left, Danny Mellor, Kate Wood and Ray Ashcroft in The Melting Shop's On Behalf Of The People. Picture: Tom Jackson

Indeed, the 70th anniversary of the nationalisation of the coal industry prompted the National Coal Mining Museum to commission Castleton's play, first staged at the museum last year and now touring Yorkshire theatres, community halls and former mining villages. Research courses through its seams, rooting the authenticity of a family drama that goes for both the head and the heart with its combination of warmth, northern humour and jagged, juddering kitchen-sink grit.

Castleton opens with younger son Tom Mason (Danny Mellor) returning unannounced to his Yorkshire mining town with three stripes and a sergeant's promotion from his war service. His stoical mother Connie (Kate Wood) is delighted to see him; his girlfriend Liz (Lizzie Frain) even more so, but not his father George (Ray Ashcroft), a hard-grafting miner and union activist with fading health, who has not forgiven Tom for signing up for duty, followed by elder brother Jud, when both could have continued mining as a reserved occupation.

Jud, his favourite, did not make it home; Tom is wracked by a sense of guilt, and the pain bursting from father and son alike makes for some of the best theatre you will see in Yorkshire this year. Mellor and Ashcroft are terrific, moving and noble, and so is the writing of Castleton.

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Mother and son reunion: Kate Wood's Connie and Danny Mellor's Tom in On Behalf Of The People. Picture: Tom Jackson

Wood's Connie and Frain's Lizzie are strong characters too, resolute and assertive, Connie holding everything together and Lizzie looking to better herself through education and her job, while never deflecting from her love of Tom.

Director Charlie Kenber, movement director Patricia Suarez and industrial sound designer Sam Glossop combine superbly to create a physical, intense, powerful realisation of Castleton's text for his company The Melting Shop. There is pride, anger, sadness and hope here, blighted by our hindsight of what was to come for the mining industry, but in this (false) new dawn of social conscience and political reform it felt like anything might be possible for the working man.

Further shows follow at Pocklington Arts Centre, on Wednesday, The Carriageworks, Leeds, June 22, both at 7.30pm, and Selby Town Hall, June 30, 8pm. Be there.