Tuesday, November 12, 2019

'The Pitmen Painters' by Lee Hall

12 November 2019

Lee Hall’s 2007 play ‘The Pitmen Painters’, which tells the story of the miners who learn to paint at a Workers Education Association art appreciation class at Ashington in Northumberland, quickly became a valuable shorthand for everything Voluntary Arts is about. Writing about the National Theatre/Live Theatre touring co-production featuring the original cast from the premiere at the Live Theatre, Newcastle (reviewed here in October 2009), I described the play as “entertaining, thought-provoking, moving and extremely funny”. It was wonderful, last Saturday, to revisit the play 10 years later in a brilliant amateur production by Company of Ten at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Jenny Kilcast’s production has a great set by Alison Pagan which features three enormous easels at the back of the stage holding large blank canvases onto which the pictures being discussed are projected. The projections (by Matt Harker) are slickly timed, creating triptych studies, both of the classic paintings the miners are studying and their own works. The amateur actors were excellent, particularly Peter McEntee who was earnest, humble and entirely believable as Oliver Kilbourn. Above all it was wonderful to rediscover Lee Hall’s brilliant comic script which was impressively handled by Company of Ten. The script is full of quotable lines that extol the importance of everyday creativity and the value of having a go. As the Pitmen Painters say (in a moving Greek chorus section at the end of the first half of the play) “we saw that art was not about the privileged. It wasn't about money or doing things a right way or a wrong way. Art was a gift ... Art doesn't really belong to anybody – not to the artist or the owner or the people who look at it. Real art is something that's shared. Real art belongs to everyone.”

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home