TIMING is often cited as one of the most important elements of comedy, so it is fortunate that in these turbulent times a comic play about social class is coming to Mansfield.
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists follows a year in the life of a group of painters and decorators who undertake hard physical work renovating a three-storey town house for Mayor Sweater for meagre wages, while generating large profits for their masters.
The political play is coming to the new Create Theatre, based at West Notts College, next week.
Actor and musical director Neil Gore said: “It’s a play based on the book The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell and it’s an adaptation for two actors.
“We play all the characters, of which there are about 12.”
This touring production, directed by Louise Townsend, has already sold out at many of the venues it has appeared at and has had rave reviews from distinguished critics.
Neil stars alongside Richard Stone, who is known from his time on Coronation Street and Emmerdale.
Based in Edwardian England, the story’s key themes of capitalism and class divide are bound to stimulate much discussion in the wake of recent welfare and tax reforms.
“Everybody is fighting for their piece of the cake and the boss gets the biggest piece,” explained Neil.
“The ‘philanthropists’ are doing all the back-breaking work for the benefit of somebody else.”
He added: “Anybody who comes to see the show mostly asks ‘what’s changed in a hundred years’ because it’s exactly the same as it was!”
The play uses instrumentation, songs of the period, movement, physicalisation, comedy and characterisation to create the spirit and clarity of the political message, creating what Neil says is a guaranteed ‘good night out’.
Said Neil: “Between us we can have a lot of fun. Because we have to find theatrical devices to tell the story, what you get is lots of very different theatrical techniques.”
These techniques include a magic lantern show and songs that move the story on. There is also some audience participation. “It’s story-telling but also an evening of music,” said Neil. “We offer a good night out!”
Director Louise Townsend said that this production takes ‘a fresh look’ at the story-telling and physical elements of the play and develops the use of live music and song which was an abiding feature of the original production.
The play is on at Create on Tuesday 16th and Wednesday 17th April at 7.30pm.
Tickets for the play cost £10 or £8 for concessions. Visit www.createtheatre.co.uk or call 01623 413363.