Review: The Pitmen Painters, Pomegranate Theatre, Chesterfield

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Humour, tragedy and sentiment collide in a funny but moving tale about North Eastern miners who discover an unexpected talent.

The play by Billy Elliot screenwriter Lee Hall is based on a true story of 1930s workers from Woodhorn Colliery, Ashington, who took up art via the Workers’ Education Association.

Initial scenes, when arts teacher Robert Lyon, played by accomplished television and stage actor Louis Hilyer, arrives to give a lesson are pure farce - with the macho miners voicing their disinterest in his soft talk of ‘feelings’ and expression.

But they soon discover they have a gift, which leads to the miners’ work being exhibited and one of the men receiving an unexpected offer to paint full-time for an heiress.

Copies of pictures from the real-life painters are cleverly used during the production.

The pitmen are determined to stay true to their roots, however, and remain working underground while painting in their spare time.

Wartime tragedy hits the painters - but they then believe post-war nationalisation will allow them to achieve the socialist dream of a better future without any ‘bourgeois’ help.

The play runs at The Pomegranate until tomorrow.