Pitmen Painters is a play based on the true story of a group miners in Ashington who went along to an art appreciation class run by the Workers Educational Association. The class soon turned from theory into practice, and the miners became sensations in the art world.
It is written by Lee Hall, who may be better known for Billy Elliott.
The Circa production was very well done, with a deft mix of humour, politics and art. Copies of the original artworks were displayed at various times on projectors.
The miners are deeply socialist, as most miners of that era were. The organiser has a tendency to revert to the rule book at every opportunity in deciding what is and is not allowable, including the offer of an attractive young woman to pose nude for them.
When one of the miners is offered a paid patron, this divides the group. Should one be allowed to stand out? The political theme runs throughout the play, but does not dominate it.
The play is reasonably long at two and a half hours, but it never gets stale. The continual conflict between the miners, but also the appreciation of the rarity of what they are doing, makes the play a very enjoyable experience.
It runs at Circa until Sat 8 November.