Based on a true event and set here in the North East this play tells the story of a group of miners who engaged an art professor to teach them art appreciation.
From this humble ambition the group was inspired to take up painting, and represent the world they lived in.
So successful were these Ashington miners in finding their artistic feet they became nationally famous when the art establishment championed them and subsequently their work was exhibited in National Galleries.
The miners painted the world they inhabited and told the stories of their communities. In so doing they became the first “working class” art movement in English Art.
Unencumbered by education the work they produced was honest and uninhibited by technique and deceit.
Passion and vision gave the group a unity of purpose.
That fact was their uniqueness and the seed of their decline.
Has their art survived ?
Did the pitmen painters change the history of art ?
For the men themselves nothing really changed.
The men painted at night and went back down the pit the next day.
As they gained in confidence and found fame pressures arose within the group.
In an age of political firmament (from the thirties to nationalisation in the late forties) questions of what the group represented (socialism and class) percolated into the appreciation and motivations of the men.
Where these working men getting above themselves?
Could a working man become an artist?
Lee Hall the writer of Billy Elliot brilliantly illuminates these issues in a play of great warmth and humanity.
Writer Hall knows his art history with walk on parts for ‘Ben Nicholson’ and Patron ‘Lady Ridley’ adding salty comments to the fun.
Earthy humour and male bonding present on a broad canvas of history, social nuance ,charm and wit.
In a production which the playwright has given special permission for as part of, The People’s Theatre Centenary a local story is given a first class production worthy of national appreciation.
In microcosm the story of ‘The Pitmen Painters’ is repeated.
In all the aspects of theatre that matter, performance, sets, lighting and atmosphere, this show is a triumph.
Ensemble acting hummed with energy and enthusiasm. All of the leads are outstanding a fact recognised by my audience who clapped at the end of each scene.
The Ashington Colliery Band provided a charming preview concert before the play started, added background atmosphere throughout and joined the players on stage for the rapturous applause at the end of the evening.
This play is a magnificent celebration of our region, its people, history and talent.
Join in that celebration.
Buy a ticket for this tour de force of a show albeit I heard a whisper that it may be a ‘Sold Out’ sign on the door.