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The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists on Monday 15th - Saturday 20th October 2018
“Yes. I’ll tell you the cause of poverty. It’s money.”
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell was written at the turn of the last century and published shortly after his death in 1911.
The novel follows the lives of a group of Edwardian painters and decorators in the fictional town of Mugsborough (based on Hastings) on the south coast of England. The firm they work for, Rushton & Co, employs them to renovate a ramshackle Victorian house called The Cave, and the action centres around the firm’s exploitation of the workers and the dangerous conditions in which they work. The craftsmen would like to do a decent job but are constrained by the need of their employers to keep costs down.
The relationships between the painters and decorators and their bosses are touchingly drawn as we see them at work, rest and play. We are shown a mirror on society just before the first world war through the eyes of ordinary men and women whose stories are rarely told. This is a tale of love and infidelity, the struggle to make ends meet, people’s capacity to have fun and be creative in the face of adversity, and the tragic consequences of too much cost cutting. There is comedy and tragedy, and an attempt to imagine a fairer world for all.
Howard Brenton’s brilliant adaptation was first staged at the Liverpool Everyman in 2010 and combines modern theatrical techniques with traditional realism. The bosses are played by actors in ‘fat cat’ masks (courtesy of Steve Bell), and the action is enlivened with a home-made panorama show and traditional Edwardian songs.
Never dull and highly entertaining, this adaptation of a well-loved classic is just as relevant today in a world of zero hours contracts and the gig economy as when it was first penned over a hundred years ago.
“OTG are leading the way in amateur theatre” – Oxford Times on Doubt: A Parable
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