Plot: In 1934, a group of Ashington miners hired a professor to teach an art appreciation evening class. Rapidly abandoning theory in favour of practice, the pitmen began to paint. Within a few years the most avant-garde artists became their friends and their work was acquired by prestigious collections; but every day they worked, as before, down the mine.
I was talking to my friend eddie the other day about my passion for theatre and that after seeing close to 20 plays in the last 6 months, you just develop the knack of being able to tell if a production will be good or not, if it will be worth your time or not. I got it right with The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other. Now after getting it right once I will not claim to have mastery over it as it’s really just early days and I’d like to say I was wrong when I judged The Pitmen Painters and almost didn’t give it a chance.
Having seen Major Barbara 4 times now, I ought to at least look at what other productions the National has to offer, and although I have read about The Pitmen Painters on the NT website it wasn’t enough to spur me on, and I can only thank Natasha Tripney where after discussing what theatre to see when we were exchanging wall posts in Facebook one particular week, she mentioned she booked to see the Pitmen. Curiousity aroused, I read it again and still unsure, booked one of the remaining few tickets for June 2 and boy did that gamble paid off in the end, for I had the most wonderful evening of laugh out loud moments, and I swear I even heard a snort!
It’s also very rare that unless it’s classic then I will also get the playtext and read it the same day, because I did so with this one and as reading the playscript I can still remember how brilliantly the actors brought this wonderful play to life. Although they were all very good, the actors who stood out for me were Christopher Connel who played Oliver Kilbourn, David Whitaker as Jimmy Floyd and Deka Walmsley as George Brown.
The play is now sold out, but there are rumours about a West End transfer so if you missed this production, you can join The Pitmen Painters email list here.
The Pitmen Painters: 4/5
Playing at the Cottesloe, National Theatre until June 25