Monday, 14 September 2009

The Pitman Painters.

A busy weekend starting on Friday with a meeting at Richmond Theatre to listen to the Creative Learning department's plans for the next year. It's a time of change for our local partners. Molly is off to New Zealand next month to start new adventures and Katie Henry has left The Orange Tree to pursue her freelance career. We've had excellent working relationships with the two theatre's over the past three years and I'm really determined that the changes to personnel doesn't disrupt the work we've done together.

Then onto the National to finally the catch The Pitmen Painters, now in its third run. It's a wonderful and inspiring play written by Lee Hall, who wrote the screenplay for Billy Elliot. In many ways the plays explores similar themes - set in the thirties, a group of Ashington miners organise art appreciation classes, with the help of a professor from Newcastle University. Soon the pitmen are creating their own art breaking down the cultural barriers both from within and without the village and finding ways to pictorially represent their lives with pride, the act of creation enhancing their own political, emotional and intellectual understanding of their world.

The play lacks any sense of cynicism and celebrates the participatory and inclusive nature of art. In our age of drip fed, dumbed downed culture - the work is also a fantastic, unashamed attack on ignorance.

The final scene takes place at the end of the second world war and the election of Attlee's Labour government. The Pitmen are heartbreaking optimistic about a future of National Health, comprehensive education, Universities for all and nationalisation. They have a beer and talk about how to turn the concept of Utopia into a work of art. It reminded me that many things are worth fighting for.

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