PUBLISHED almost 100 years ago, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, was a damning indictment of working conditions at the time.
One of the stars of a stage-play, based on Robert Tressell’s novel, explains why he thinks the story is more relevant than ever.
“Over the past 15 to 20 years, the rich have continued to get richer,” Neil Gore tells
the Solihull News.
“There’s still people, particularly in part-time work, who struggle even to get to their next pay packet.
“So, yes, I still think this is a story that’s very relevant today – Unions like it, and it recently became an A-level set text.”
Set in the fictional city of Mugsborough, the play looks at the lives of a group of painters and decorators.
One of the workers, Frank Owen, is disgusted at the way the workforce is exploited, but struggles to show this to colleagues.
“I should make clear that this isn’t some dry story about Edwardian politics, a lot of it is very funny,” adds Neil.
“Some of the situations are hilarious, in inverted commas, because actually the working conditions were so unsafe.
“Things went on that the Health and Safety lobby certainly wouldn’t be happy with today!”
The original play was written for seven actors, but this new version is just a two-hander.
Neil, originally from Coleshill, appears opposite Fine Time Fontayne – with the pair dividing the roles between them.
“It is demanding as an actor, but actually it’s very enjoyable to play so many different parts.
“You can switch between characters by swapping a hat, or just holding yourself slightly differently.
“It works a treat, and actually we haven’t had to tinker with the original script all that much.”
The Raggered Trousered Philanthropists is on at Birmingham’s Library Theatre on September 2.
* For tickets call 0121 245 4455 or visit www.birmingham-box.co.uk