Working class classic at Georgian Theatre

Characters Neil Gore and Fine Time Fontayne of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, which is being shown at The Georgian Theatre in Richmond.
Characters Neil Gore and Fine Time Fontayne of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, which is being shown at The Georgian Theatre in Richmond.

Townsend Productions is delighted to announce that it will be staging a new production of Stephen Lowe’s critically acclaimed version of Robert Tressell’s The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists at The Georgian Theatre Royal on Thursday August 30.

Using instrumentation, songs of the period, movement, physicalisation, comedy and characterisation to create the spirit and clarity of the political message, the play shares with its audience a year in the life of a group of painters and decorators, as they renovate a three-storey town house for Mayor Sweater. It traces their struggle for survival in a complacent and stagnating Edwardian England. These workers are the “philanthropists” who throw themselves into back-breaking work for poverty wages in order to generate profit for their masters.

Performed as a two-hander, the production, which coincides with the centenary anniversary of the author’s death remains as vivid and as relevant as when it was written almost a century ago, runs.

Robert Tressell’s The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, has become a classic of working-class literature since its first publication in 1914. The themes and style of the piece are eternally relevant and provoking as it puts life and politics into sharp focus in an entertaining and accessible way. What, with a Tory-led coalition government in power, and that the year 2011 is the centenary anniversary of Robert Tressell’s death, the company felt it was the right time for this show to be seen on tour nationally.

Stephen Lowe’s version of the story was first seen in 1978, when Joint Stock Theatre Company toured the country playing to packed houses. The play was revived at the Half Moon Theatre, London in 1983 and again for a touring production by the Birmingham Rep in 1991.

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’ excellent cast features Finetime Fontayne, (The Northern Broadsides productions of Hamlet and Othello with Lenny Henry, Casualty, All Creatures Great and Small, Cracker, Coronation Street (in which he played Hilda Ogden’s lodger), Emmerdale, At Home With The Braithwaites, Heartbeat) and Neil Gore (Song of Singapore, Chichester Festival Theatre and the West end). The production is directed by Louise Townsend, with the creative team including designs by Fine Time Fontayne and lighting by Jo Dawson.

The play has had the Backing of the unions RMT, Unite, NASUWT TUC, GMB, PCS, Wales TUC, NUT, and the FBU.

l Tickets for The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists are priced at £7-£20 and can be purchased at the Box Office by calling 01748 825252 or online at www.georgiantheatreroyal.co.uk