Roberts Tressel's book describes, through the microcosm of a painting & decorating firm, the monumental struggle of the working class to gain a decent living wage & better living conditions. I read this book as a young man in 1963, yet the passage of time has not dulled my recollection of the characters & episodes within it. The cruelty meeted out to the workforce by Crass & Co is seared into my my memory, as is the humour & wisdom of those who stuggled to survive against it. Anyone who doubts the value of the Union Movement should watch this play & thank their lucky stars for real life characters like Owen, who through their sacrifice have made our lives so much better today.
27/07/2011 Catherine Davis
As part of the first night audience at Hertford Theatre I thoroughly enjoyed this funny, musical and moving adaptation of the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. Fine Time Fontayne and Neil Gore were wonderful, moving seamlessly between the characters (and hats) amidst a clever set which conjured up workplace and annual country outing. A recalcitrant magic lantern merely helped, as the audience hugely enjoyed the ad libbing it induced. The puppet show portraying the better of members of society was fun, as was the opportunity to revisit old songs that I didn't think I knew (there must be a publicly accessible folk memory which holds 'When Father Papered the Parlour' and the like).
However amidst the fun was sadness and a real sense of just how hard the characters' lives were and how little power they had against the demands of their employers and the wider economic situation. One could see a frisson of recognition run through the audience as they discussed what to do (or not) to stop the juggernaut of lower wages and rising costs. I first read the book as a teenager in the late 1970s and thought it described a time with about as much future relevance to everyday life as the gold standard. Funnily enough it didn't feel like that on Thursday, in fact it seemed like new minted contemporary drama in a period setting.
31/10/2011 David Atkin
This production features two hugely talented actor-musicians. They are able to switch from laughter to pathos in the twinkling of an eye, taking the audience with them all the while. They transform easily from one character into another, even sharing parts. The ad-libbing and engagement with the audience underlines the confidence they have in each other and in their own abilities. The production itself deals with very serious issues in a manner that is never preachy. It is fast-paced and thoroughly entertaining, with an innovative set and great lighting.
31/10/2011 John O.donnell
I seen this play in glasgow at the start of october,
i have read the book many times.I am a painter/decorator
to trade,this book is known as the painter's bible.Compulsive reading for all painters.Your show was the best bit of theatre i have seen in a decade.I also persauded two painters who had never been to theatre to go to the show,they where mesmerised.I would like to take this opportunity to thank the cast,set,prop and production for a great nights entertainment.Would it be possible to get a list of songs used in the show? lyrics chords etc. yours faithfully John Odonnell
29/01/2012 Simon Nicholls
I saw the show last night(28/01/12) at The Tobacco Factory,it was wonderful,I have owned three copies of the book and given them away to people who were interested in reading it.Tressell wrote the book in 1910 and perhaps what is most depressing about it all....nothing has changed.Hats off(literally) to Rodney Matthew and Neil Gore for a bloody good nights entertainment.
18/02/2012 John Taylor
Birnam Institute 17/02/2012.
A brilliant performance. Excellent entertainment.
Many thanks to all concerned.
I attended the evening performance in St Andrews on the 16th Feb. I just wanted to say how impressed I was with the performance. I'm a big fan of the book and studied it for my MA dissertation, and was interested to see how it would lend itself to the stage. The production encompassed the main socio-political themes from the book and presented them in an entertaining and accessible fashion. The cast were outstanding!
Thanks for a great night out
02/04/2012 Jane Ingram
I want to say a big 'Thank you' for the production of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists presented in Hastings.
Both the actors were multi-talented and had great rapport with the audience. We laughed, sang along and thoroughly enjoyed the evening. Considering Hastings is the 'home' of the book, it was much appreciated by all I have spoken to who saw it.
Good luck with the rest of the tour.
03/03/2012 Chris Ure
It is rare in a lifetime of theatre that I have come away with tears in my eyes. But that is what happened having seen the 'Ragged Trousered Philanthropists' last night at the 'Seagull Theatre' in Lowestoft.
Tears for am emerging new beginning where there was hope. For the embryo beginnings of a Labour movement and the realisation that the working man could have strength and representation through a trade union. But tears also for a society in which that poverty and inequality still exists. For the Thatcher years of trying destroy the power and spirit of the union.
The two performers conveyed with power and humour and passion Tessell’s dilemma of over a century ago. They were extraordinary performances in which a change of hat or a simple prop could move the characterisation from one man to another and to take us from owner to foreman to worker with ease. A string of characters to convey the politics of power and poverty in Tresell’s classic story. The depressing realisation that at times it was the working man himself who was his own worst enemy enabling his employer to exploit him and to keep him in his place.
Towards the end of the play I found myself unable to join in any more around the time of the song ‘Two Lovely Black Eyes’. I found myself becoming too moved and preoccupied to be dispassionate about the taunting of Frank Owen by his fellow workers and the lack of understanding of the true exploitation that existed. And of course the dramatic finale, the unfolding of the flag where no words needed to be spoken.
It was a beautifully constructed and acted play providing an extraordinary professional vehicle for two actors who clearly know their craft so well. So thank you to Rodney Matthew and Neil Gore and to the production team. If the intention was to stir the blood and to remind us all what could have happened and what nearly did happen then it succeeded in that aim. I came away with strongly mixed feelings. Feelings of passion about the continued need for social change but also feelings of despair that nothing much has changed in over a hundred years. I attended with my wife and we both thought that it was hugely compelling theatre with two truly memorable performances.
Thank you for a great production and do please pass on our thanks to Rodney and Neil.
19/03/2012 Terry Cordrey
I saw this at Caistor Town Hall. How are these two actors going to manage all those characters? I thought. Well they did and what an absolutely fanatastic evening it was! A very professional production and well worth the £10 0s od (worth at least double that).
22/03/2012 Roger JF André
Tressell's narrative springs to life in this amazing production. The two man performance is a masterpiece of ingenuity and wit. All the characters come alive and truly fulfil the promise of the book. A hugely entertaining evening so particularly right for our time.
17/04/2012 Brenda Blythe
I took my mum to see the production on March 29th-her 89th birthday- in Hastings - our home town. It was superb - involving the audience with singing along and with the Money trick was inspired. Nothing was lost with the inclusion of humour and singing - in fact the stark contrast with the pathos of the workers situation was accentuated I think. Many congratulations to Rodney and Neil - they were brilliant - as were all involvedin the production. The fact that a Hastings audience requested 2 curtain calls speaks for itself - looking forward to more productions. Keep up the good work.
My wife and I attended the performance at Milford Haven's Torch theatre last night with Rodney and Neil starring and we had an absolutely wonderful experience. I was impressed at how cleverly and magically the two gents sang and acted their way through so many parts so seamlessly. The musical pieces were great fun and fitted perfectly. If the show were still running there this evening we would be there again but this time with more people with us.
We had both read the book in the past and we were intrigued as to how you would pull it off but you floored us with your creativity and energetic movement around the stage. We talked about the sheer talent we had witnessed all the way home.
After being brought onto stage for the Great Money Trick I don't think I will ever forget it.
Thank you to all who were involved. It really was some of the best theatre that I have seen in the last 25 years.
27/04/2012 Catherine Whiteman
I saw your production of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists in Kemney Village Hall. It was absolutely fantastic, I almost didn't go as I had a very exhausting day at work but was so glad I did. Two actors (are you sure it was only 2!) populated the stage with a dozen characters with music and song and you even managed to squeeze in puppetry. Loved the nod to William Morris in the backdrops and the real gilder's tip and cushion. Please come to north east Scotland again.
14/05/2012 Lorna Murray
I was at The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists at Kemnay Village Hall on Monday evening. Brilliant performance and inspiring way of dealing with serious political situation. Thanks so much
16/05/2012 Kate Wimpress
... the performances went really well here at NEA, with two very well deserved standing ovations from the audience and a great deal of excitement about your forthcoming festival shows.
18/05/2012 Kim Punter
Absolutely first class, all children should be MADE to watch this and perhaps then our country would be less greedy. How ironic though that at our club ( a working mens club) committee men refused to pay the princely sum of £3 to watch it. Obviously more education needed. Good luck for the future
26/05/2012 Michele Noble
"I was really looking forward to seeing the show tonight at the Harrogate Studio Theatre. I didn't expect it to be so absolutely brilliant! I sat on the front row with my mother Pamela and my friend Ruby. Ruby was invited on stage to help with the money thing. I was overwhelmed by the energy of the actors, their wonderful interpretations of each character. Great bits of business with the fingers! Neil's eyes! Some stunning speeches. I love music hall so was thrilled when we got to sing along with a couple of my favourite numbers; 'When Father papered the Parlour' and 'Two Lovely Black Eyes'. I was just thinking how gorgeous Neil was when he freaked me out by squatting right in front of me as if to attempt to do the farting song. Hahahaha!! I had to hold my head on, my face was stuck to my hands! Well done Rodney for recovering from falling off the box, which must have jolly well hurt, and great ad libbing from Neil when he 'kicked the bucket' hahaha! Great stuff. We all loved it! We had more friends sitting further back and they said they were really impressed with the whole thing too.
The added narration really works well. I wasn't keen on the puppet show because they looked like muppets but everyone else mentioned that part as a highlight. My mother and Father were both actors so we know how hard those two were working tonight. It was a heatwave here but thankfully there was air conditioning. Still, I was quite relieved to see they were both still alive at the end. Bit worried about them doing a matinee as well as an evening performance tomorrow though! Thank you for putting so much into the show. It is wonderful!"
17/06/2012 maxine cox
Thanks for coming to Barnsley Civic. What talent, it was really hillarious. I havent read the book but will be doing so now.I was really impressed with the acting and quick change of character, the singing and musical ability made it all the more enjoyable, I only wish that we here in Barnsley had got the idea of audience participation in a little earlier!! What a pity the Civic wasnt packed, the production certainly deserved it. Thanks for coming.
19/08/2012 Phil Kirshner
Just in from seeing this in Edinburgh. Absolutely brilliant!!! Acting, performance, staging everything about it was just emotionally rewarding. Well done!
03/09/2012 Grace fox
Excellent evening in Richmond reminding us of what and how the theatre can deliver more than entertainment.
11/09/2012 Jonathan Cutler
Saw the brilliant performance at the Theatre On The Lake, Keswick, in July 2011. Fine Time and Neil autographed the programme which now sits in my treasured copy of the book.
Will have to see the show again in Aylesbury at the end of this month.
"Great night out in Richmond which moved me to write a review. Wish we had gone to the meet and greet afterwards Good luck with the rest of the tour.
27/09/2012 Kevin Jones
Last night at Liverpool Lantern Theatre was my first opportunity to watch this particular stage version of my favourite book.
I admit to some scepticism. How could they possibly retain the essence of the book in 90 minutes with just two actors ?
Happily, my scepticism was unfounded. Brilliant acting from Neil Gore and Fine Time fontayne, combined with superfast changes of costume and character, lighting effects and effective use of a simple set and a few props made this a night to remember. Of necessity many of the books sub plots are omitted. What remains though is the essential story of capitalist greed shown through a group of downtrodden wage slaves, and one man's struggle to educate his fellow workers as to the real reasons for their plight, despite their servile acceptance of the status quo. All the pathos, the humour and the anger of Tressell's book is superbly retained and portrayed.
Kevin Jones Chairman, The Association of the Ragged Trousered
11/10/2012 Martyn Habberley
Absolutely gripping, as good an evening as I have ever had in a theatre, two blokes supplied a wide range of characters, a front row seat with our wheelchair enabled us to study the body language close up, thank you gentlemen for an extremely entertaining evening. Fascinating, though, that the Shrewsbury audience, who filed past us, showed us that even Socialists are Middleclass now!
Saw the performance last night in Shrewsbury, which was a fantastic experience! It was perfomed to a full house and a good time was had by all. I particularly liked how approachable the actors were, taking time to mingle and chat with the croud. Very laid back, affable fellows. Highly recommended.
15/10/2012 Simon Taylor
"Hi, I wanted to thank you for puting on such an enjoyable evening at Countesthorpe last night.
As a trade union activist and somebody who has read the novel it was heartening to see such a good turnout for a production sponsored and supported by the trade union movement.
The actors were skillful and enthusiastic and the great money trick, being in my view the crux of the book, was presented in an effective and pleasing style.
A production I shall happily recommend to all and sundry!"
i just saw your show in South Brent, Devon, and am truly impressed by the quality of your acting, and your humanness which really shines through in the show. i have only lived in the UK for 5 years so figured a lot of it would go over my head, but it didn't--these labour issues, capitalism etc run through all our societies---especially the one i come from--USA. I feel well acted theater really is such a great tool for making you think, and for bringing the message home, so we can ALL relate to it. Well done Neal and Fine Time and Townsend productions!!
25/10/2012 Ken Kirk
I had the pleasure seeing The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists in Peckham last night, the acting and the whole production was superb. My wife and I both thoroughly enjoyed the evening, it was thought provoking, entertaining, fun, challenging and the atmosphere generated in the theatre was terrific, I have rarely experienced such a connection between the actors, the topic and the audience. I read the book only a couple of years ago and it was brought to life by the play in away that I clearly recongised all the characters and it hammered home the issues that should concern everyone. Well done and thank you for such a great performance.
21/02/2013 Paul Robinson
"We thoroughly enjoyed The Ragged Trousered Philantropists in Portsmouth on sunday.
Neil & Richard did a tremendous job...actually they did many jobs tremendously!!
Thank you for making us smile!
We're looking forward to seeing many more of your tremendous productions. Thank you for adding to our lives.
Paul and Kate.
23/02/2013 Bernard J Williamson
"A wonderful evening in Southend on Sea , the lads worked their socks off to give us the flavour of the times . They made the audience empathise with the 7p men and want to boo and hiss the capitalists. A rollicking roller coaster with hymns and other forgotten songs .
It's a relevant today as it has ever been . Thanks for a wonderful evening .
I would have liked to have a CD of the hymns and songs of the day as well as I did'int recognize most of them ."
03/03/2013 Kevin Morley
SawTHE RAGGED TROUSERED PHILANTHROPISTS 2 weeks ago at Southend an absorbing and intimate experience fleshed out by two brilliant actors
03/03/2013 Tim Forster
saw you at haleswort last night, fantastic-and so relevant!
3/3/2013 Chris Ure
Yvonne Sewell 12/04/2013
Two wonderful performers, beautiful, passionate, unfettered theatre, a delight. Thank you. So glad I was there. God bless you
Paul Caputa 29/04/2013
I am a left wing unionist and activist, I am also a Teacher. I brought my 6th form students to see this piece and they were blown away. Young people are rarely political these days but your play opened their eyes to the continuous unfairness and exploitation of the rich over the poor. In our austere stricken world I hope that the answer that the capitalist come up with is not the same as in 1914. Thank you for a brilliant production, all of my kids enjoyed and understood the show and will be using it in their exams.
Head of Arts
What a super – superb – performance – thank you!!
May we please have the words of Betsy’s closing ‘prayer’ – we’d like to savour again those thoughtful and thought-provoking words.
Thanks once more.
Roger and Yvonne
(in the front row at Langton tonight)
Saw you at Stroud last night. Brilliant.
My world was changed by reading Hobsbawm and Rude on Captain Swing a long time ago.
What you have managed to with so much tragedy was marvellous.
All the best for the tour.
Look forward to the next one.
My father was on the building sites right through the 70s, so it will mean a great deal.
Hello there - thanks for a great night in Stroud - I have posted a warm review on www.radicalstroud.blogspot.co.uk
Hope to see you again somewhere,
Just wanted to say thank you for a beautifully crafted show at Monmouth last evening. We enjoyed every aspect of the performance. Look forward to the next production.
Sherren McCabe-Finlayson and David Evans
FIND US ON FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/Platformone.Monmouth
Hello Neil and Charlotte
What a great performance in Dorchester last night. The couple next to us were seeing the show for the second time, and at the end we could see why!
They came from Puddletown and both had a grandparents who had worked in agriculture - one in Tolpuddle itself. Strangely neither of the couple had been informed about the events of Tolpuddle by their schools or their family.
We all owe you thanks for keeping the story alive, and in an entertaining and emotional manner. It was a memorable performance in so many ways, and we were particularly stuck by final words spoken by Betsy - "I wish you......
Might there be a way of having that final speech being sent to us please? In addition to reading the words we would be very interested if the performance becomes available on DVD.
Thanks again for a very special evening.
Geoff and Christine Dreyer