Townsend Theatre is interrupting its national tour of Robert Tressell’s seminal play, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, to put on a special performance at the House of Commons next week.
The one-off performance next Thursday, ahead of an appearance in Bath later that night, will be accompanied by a speech by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell as a response to Philip Hammond’s Budget announcement on Monday.
The critically acclaimed stage adaptation of Tressell’s 1914 novel is being performed as a one-man show by writer and actor Neil Gore.
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists is a unique document. A novel of humour and sharply observed characterisation, it is also a passionate defence of socialist ideas and one of the first truly imaginative portrayals of life written from a working-class perspective.
The book charts a year in the lives of a group of painters and decorators in the town of Mugsborough at the turn of the last century.
Haunted by fears of unemployment, the men struggle to keep their jobs at any cost but, in the course of events, some of them begin to realise that their condition of miserable poverty is neither natural or just.
Speaking about the book’s influence, Gore said: “The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists is a classic political book that lays out clearly inequalities in British Edwardian society, and it challenges the Capitalist system upon which society is based, arguing it is responsible for creating those inequalities.
“However, it offers solutions as well, and in time, some of these aims were achieved, in part, through democratic means in Parliament.
“Historically, the book is an important reminder of the past and the origins of seeking fairer alternatives to an unjust, unequal system.
“And it celebrates the energy and achievement of those that have bravely championed political and societal change through campaigning and fighting for improvement by applying pressure to the democratic process in the corridors of power.
“The book, however, remains relevant even to this day, and has plenty of contemporary resonance. The fight for a more just and co-operative society continues, and the book is a constant reminder of the need for an alternative.
“Having the messages within the book echoing around the same building where the Budget will be delivered is a prodigious and powerful development, and something Tressell would have thoroughly enjoyed, I’m sure.”
Townsend Productions’ adaptation of the play is currently on tour across the country, but this one-off performance is being funded by the trade unions and organised by Labour MP for Liverpool Walton Dan Carden.
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists is playing at Tara Theatre, Earlsfield, London until Saturday.
2018/9 Tour Dates
OCT 30 – THE WEDGWOOD ROOMS, PORTSMOUTH NOV 1 – RONDO THEATRE, BATH NOV 2 – LUTON LIBRARY THEATRE NOV 3 – MUMFORD THEATRE & RUSKIN GALLERY TBC NOV 7 – MARX MEMORIAL LIBRARY, LONDON NOV 8 – RUSKIN COLLEGE, OXFORD NOV 9-10 WORKING CLASS MOVEMENT LIBRARY THEATRE, salford NOV 13 – CLYDEBANK TOWN HALL NOV 14 – WALLSEND MEMORIAL HALL AND PEOPLES CENTRE NOV 15 – UNITE THE UNION, JOHN SMITH HOUSE, GLASGOW NOV 16 – NORTH EDINBURGH ARTS NOV 17 – CHAPLAINCY CENTRE, UNIVERSITY OF DUNDEE NOV 23 – THE SEAGULL THEATRE, LOWESTOFT NOV 28 – THE PLOUGH ARTS CENTRE, GREAT TORRINGTON NOV 30 – BROADMAYNE, DORCHESTER DEC 2 – SHIPTON GORGE (BRIDPORT) DT6 4NA DEC 8 – SORBIE VILLAGE HALL DEC 9 – THE SCOTTISH TRADE UNION CONGRESS
MAR 23 – DISS MAY 10 – ROTHERAM MAY 16 – THE CIVIC, BARNSLEY MAY 18 – BRIGHTON FESTIVAL MAY 19 – BRIGHTON FESTIVAL MAY 20 – HARROW MAY 21 – HERTFORD THEATRE MAY 22 – HERTFORD THEATRE TBC MAY 23 – DISS CORN HALL MAY 24 – THE PLACE THEATRE BEDFORD MAY 25 – HARROGATE THEATRE (MAIN HOUSE) MAY 31 – WORKING CLASS MOVEMENT LIBRARY, SALFORD JUN 1 – WORKING CLASS MOVEMENT LIBRARY, SALFORD JUN 7 – VOLCANO THEATRE, SWANSEA TBC JUN 9 – ST AUSTELL.