The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists Review
How to turn some 600 pages of print into a fast-paced piece of theatre? Answer; take two highly talented actors and stand well back.
Little read today, Robert Tressal’s mighty novel of working class life and labour in Mugsborough (Hastings) presents capitalism in microcosm; a wealthy buyer wants his new home renovated on the cheap; to do this, craftspersons and manual labourers alike must be exploited by overseers and foremen, in their turn exploited by managers thirled to a system that binds all to an unseen power whose purpose they barely understand.
Stephen Lowe’s original script for Joint Stock wrestled mightily with Tressal’s opus. Although its almost millenarian socialism seems a virtual political antique in these presentation-is-all times, it survives translation to the present-day stage remarkably well. Neil Gore’s two-hander adaptation serves Lowe’s original well,
Neil Gore and Fine Time Fontayne are ably directed by Louise Townsend, playing over ten parts between them in fast yet measured fashion. The dark and light of the script is often beautifully portrayed, the characters never descending to caricature. This is an undeniably thoughtful and thought-provoking production that knows its own strengths and plays them to the hilt.
The production is greatly enhanced by a thoughtful choice of period music providing comment and counterpoint to the other elements of the production. The restrictions of time mean some elements of the original are lost, and the theatrical ending of a banner emblazoned with the name of a principal sponsor (Unite) left this reviewer to ponder whether this would have induced laughter or tears in the original author, whose own views were probably somewhat to the left of the old ILP.
Not perhaps quite what the author intended, then, but nevertheless a finely wrought piece of theatre pertinent to our present troubled times.
August 4-27 12.00
August 4-7, 10-12, 17-19, 24-26 (£10.00)
August 8-9, 14-16, 20-23, 27 (£ 9.00)