The Pitmen Painters, written by Lee Hall and inspired by William Feaver's book, focuses on a group of five men who live in the small mining town of Ashington during the mid 1930's. In order to get away from the doldrums of the mine they hire a professor to teach them about art. Cue Robert Lyons (Ian Kelly) as the determined art teacher charged to be their tour guide from the leap between the two unlikely worlds.
With Lyons guidance the men begin their trek into unknown (yet uproarious) territory filled with fresh paint and their own self-assessed critiques. As the play delves deeper, pitman Oliver Kilbourn (Trevor Fox) emerges from the group as he finds a passionate tie to the art world in midst of inner turmoil and self doubt. The pitmen painters are soon thrust into the prestigioius art riche world, where praise and esteem is heaped upon the newly minted artists, but still practicing pitmen.
Set in the era of a depression, the beginning of WWII and the dangers of the mining world, Pitmen Painters has a tinge of bleakness that can't be dispelled just through the highlarious jokes and guffaws (although crucial and entertaining). Rather the spirit of the show itself is lifted in the journey and realisation that for the first time in their lives they are more than just pitmen. The cast's dynamic is truly wonderful, with just the right amount of punch lines that push cleverly into and intertwine with the real truth of the story. The dilapidated setting illuminates the many, many paintings that are featured on the stage. More clearly these are projected on a large hanging backdrop which really gives the audience a better reference to the discussed pieces of art. Besides the paintings there are few props, which suit the cast just fine, seeing that their antics are all you need to enjoy this biographical amusement.
The Pitmen Painters
@ Duchess Theatre
London WC2B 5LA
Running until 14 April, 2012.
Are you a fan of Lee Hall? Click for a Billy Elliot break!