REVIEW: Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Lantern Theatre

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CAPITALISM gets a kicking from this spirited two-hander, sponsored by unions which may well strike this winter.

Stephen Lowe’s play is based on the classic novel of Edwardian working class life by Robert Tressell, mining his own experiences as a Sussex house painter.

It was a Marxist attack on the capitalist system at a time when the trade union movement and the Labour Party were emerging and was then a political call to arms. Some will find resonances 100 years on.

Tressell, who suffered from TB, like his hero Frank Owen, and died a pauper, never lived to see it published and his daughter sold the rights for £25. Ironically, the capitalist publisher excised much of the socialist content.

Fine Time Fontayne and Neil Gore, who play 13 characters (one shared), give wonderful performances in this heady mix of politics, propaganda and puppetry as well as musical hall songs and audience participation.

The play contains the novel’s central scene where slices of bread and knives represent capitalism’s Great Money Trick (although this writer believes the actual argument is flawed).

The evening sounds dull but is so well done and such good fun that the sell-out audience almost left rushing to man the barricades.