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  • Catherine Davis

    "As part of the first night audience at Hertford Theatre I thoroughly enjoyed this funny, musical and moving adaptation of the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. Fine Time Fontayne and Neil Gore were wonderful, moving seamlessly between the characters (and hats) amidst a clever set which conjured up workplace and annual country outing. A recalcitrant magic lantern merely helped, as the audience hugely enjoyed the ad libbing it induced. The puppet show portraying the better of members of society was fun, as was the opportunity to revisit old songs that I didn't think I knew (there must be a publicly accessible folk memory which holds 'When Father Papered the Parlour' and the like).
    However amidst the fun was sadness and a real sense of just how hard the characters' lives were and how little power they had against the demands of their employers and the wider economic situation. One could see a frisson of recognition run through the audience as they discussed what to do (or not) to stop the juggernaut of lower wages and rising costs. I first read the book as a teenager in the late 1970s and thought it described a time with about as much future relevance to everyday life as the gold standard. Funnily enough it didn't feel like that on Thursday, in fact it seemed like new minted contemporary drama in a period setting."

  • Eddie Bates

    Roberts Tressel's book describes, through the microcosm of a painting & decorating firm, the monumental struggle of the working class to gain a decent living wage & better living conditions. I read this book as a young man in 1963, yet the passage of time has not dulled my recollection of the characters & episodes within it. The cruelty meeted out to the workforce by Crass & Co is seared into my my memory, as is the humour & wisdom of those who stuggled to survive against it. Anyone who doubts the value of the Union Movement should watch this play & thank their lucky stars for real life characters like Owen, who through their sacrifice have made our lives so much better today.