The Pitman Painters

Date 18th October 2019
Society Westovian Theatre Society
Venue The Pier Pavilion
Type of Production Play
Director Jim Barton


Author: Foster Johnson

The Life and Works of the “Ashington Group of Painters”, commonly known by their sobriquet “The Pitmen Painters” was vividly and beautifully brought to life by the Westovians. Using the cleverly worded and meaningful play by Lee Hall they brought to life,  how  this group of miners and a dental technician/engineer following a route of self -education discovered a whole new world of art and painting which eventually led them to become famous for their true to life works which were widely exhibited.

They started out in 1934 by attending what they thought was an art appreciation talk by the Workers Educational Foundation but soon found that it was an art class by Robert Lyon an art tutor who they had mistakenly hired to lecture them on art appreciation. Well after arguments, discussions and much philosophical debate and a career of self development and awareness the rest they say is history and we now have an artistic legacy of the mining communities in the 1930’s.

Using a minimal set but with clever use of lighting and the back projection of the miners’ paintings and other world famous painters, and with some original paintings dotted around the auditorium, Director Jim Barton really drew a packed audience into the miners world and gave the cast the freedom  to do what this talented group do best. The cast of nine were excellent and handled the complicated and detailed script without a blemish. I could not pick out one over another  Mark Lamb making a much welcome return to the stage played Oliver Kilburn perhaps the most naturally talented and visionary of the painters. The ever reliable stalwart of the Society Ron Markwick had the role of Harry Wilson (the only non miner in the Group) whose offerings both spoken and in his paintings often reflected his left wing leanings. Tony Sheppard relatively new to the stage gave a lovely interpretive performance as Jimmy Floyd, whilst that doyen of the Society David Cooke was at his usual best as George Brown the father figure of the Group. The youngest member of the cast was Adam Ross who cast as “Young Lad” the nephew of George was never overshadowed by his more experienced cast members and contributed well to the plot line. Peter Dawson as the tutor Robert Lyon continued to develop his well earned reputation with another fine performance. As the art aficionado and supporter of the Group Dolores Porretta Brown was on song as usual as Miss Sutherland and never fails to deliver .Finally but not least we had David Gibson as artist Ben Nicholson and Jess Henderson as would be painter and artists model Susan Parks  who made important contributions to the theme of the Show.