Monday, 16 November 2015

"The Pitmen Painters" by Lee Hall.
Nottingham Lace Market Theatre.

Even I had heard of this story before tonight and what a wonderful story it is. A group of miners from Ashington, just north of Newcastle join an art appreciation society, not quite knowing what they are looking for. Definitely not expecting what they found. Under the tutelage of Professor Lyon they develop their art and from little acorns mighty oaks doth grow. They go on to great acclaim and their paintings are exhibited in some of the most prestigious galleries of their time.

The joshing banter of the miners is richly comic, while their determination to learn and make the best of their harsh lives proves deeply affecting. As in Billy Elliot, Hall insists that culture should be available to all and that there are more worthwhile things in life than getting bladdered down the pub or sitting slumped in front of the telly. Why should the working classes be forced to make do with rubbish?

A believable cast, although some of the Northern accents were sometimes a little exaggerated and at other times not even noticeable, but on the whole quite realistic. I soon forgot to listen out for the recognisable dialect and concentrated on the warmth and the humanism of the play. There's plenty of comedy here and the lines are very natural to the characters.One of the best comic scenes come when a life model turns up to pose but as it's not in the regulations, it didn't happen, much to the disappointment of the two younger members of the class!

Speaking of naturalism and believability, Professor Lyon's character was brilliant, played by Oliver Lovley, but then again all the characters were so well played Colin Treliving as George Brown, the leader of the group, Fraser Wanless was brilliant as Oliver, the painter who had the most attention from the art luvvies with his paintings, Thomas Willis as Jimmy Floyd, James Green as the youngest member who only joined as he had nothing else to do and had no job. I love character driven roles and Geoff Longbottom had a wonderful role as the elder statesman of the group, harry Wilson. Not a miner but a dental mechanic who repeatedly reminded us that he had been gassed in the war, Wonderful piece of characterisation.

The "life model" Susan was played by uth Page and the art aficionado Helen Sutherland was played beautifully ever so slightly aloof by Jane Pyke. The other secondary character was the artist Ben Nicholson played by Sean Radford.

Brilliantly cast and wonderfully acted. Even though the sets were minimal it didn't matter, the story and the individual characters of the miners carried this play through. Heart warming and full of hope this play is a very upbeat piece of theatre.Beautifully and skilfully directed by Beverley Anthony and produced by John Anthony this is well worth seeing.

"The Pitmen Painters" is on at the Nottingham Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 21 November 2015.

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