Story of the Grunwick strike to take to the stage at the Theatre Royal

The Theatre Royal, in Bury St Edmunds, is welcoming Townsend Productions with their new play based on the extraordinary true story of The Grunwick Strike, a dispute that challenged the way women and immigrants are treated in the workplace.

We Are The Lions, Mr Manager! is a dramatic retelling of Jayaben Desai’s fight for Union recognition, freedom, equality and human dignity and is at the theatre on Tuesday, April 10.

In August 1976, a group of workers in a film processing factory in Willesden walked out in protest at their unfair working conditions, low pay and the ‘bullying tactics’ used by management.

Led by mostly East African Asian women, The Grunwick Strike became one of the longest and most important industrial disputes in British history, changing the way trade unions thought about race and new immigrant communities coming to Britain. But the story of the Grunwick dispute is not just a story about ground-breaking solidarity, it is also the story of a remarkable woman, Jayaben Desai.

The 4ft 10in tall, mother-of-two defiantly led the first walk-out in protest against the humiliation she and other women employees felt at the Grunwick factory.

As she left, the manager shouted at Jayaben and her colleagues to “stop chattering like monkeys in a zoo”, to which Jayaben replied: “What you are running here is not a factory, it is a zoo. But in a zoo there are many types of animals. Some are monkeys who dance on your finger-tips, others are lions who can bite your head off. We are the lions, Mr. Manager!”

Townsend Productions are visiting Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds for the first time and reprise their trademark cast of two actors playing multiple roles.

We Are The Lions, Mr Manager! stars Medhavi Patel (Birbal, Trident Moon, Kidulthood) as Jayaben Desai and Neil Gore (A Christmas Carol, Wind in the Willows, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists) as Malcolm Alden. Neil is also the writer of the play, which is directed by Louise Townsend.

Tickets are on sale at the Box Office, call 01284 769505, book online at or visit the theatre in person.

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