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House of Commons to host ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’

Neil Gore in the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists - credit Louise Townsend
Neil Gore in the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists – credit Louise Townsend

Townsend Theatre Productions has announced its touring production of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists will be performed in the House of Commons on Thursday 1st November 2018.

The one-off performance will be accompanied by a speech by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell to coincide with Philip Hammond’s Budget announcement.

The critically acclaimed stage adaptation of Robert Tressell’s seminal 1914 novel will be 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.

These workers, the ‘philanthropists’ of the title, who throw themselves into back-breaking work for poor wages to generate profit for their ‘masters’ are joined by an artist, Owen, whose spirited attacks on the dishonesty of capitalism, along with his socialist vision, highlight their workplace exploitation and the inequality in society as a whole.

Speaking of the book’s everlasting significance, Gore said: “The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists is a classic political book that lays out clearly inequalities in British Edwardian society, and challenges the Capitalist system upon which society is based, arguing it as 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. We’re currently in the hands of a Government that is intent on promoting a Capitalist system that sees competition rather than public service as a main theme; so, 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, funded by the trade unions and organised by Labour MP for Liverpool Walton Dan Carden, is one Gore hopes will embolden audiences in the House of Commons to continue in their fight against austerity and injustice.

Gore said: “I hope audiences will take Tressell’s central message of a desire for a society based on justice and co-operation; where there are fair opportunities for all; where no one is distinguished or honoured above their fellows; where the necessaries of life are available for the benefit of all, and not for the profit of a few. I hope it emboldens the audience to take the fight against inequalities that will, no doubt, be a central feature of the Tory Budget.

TOUR DATES
OCT 23 – SEVERN THEATRE, SHREWSBURY
OCT 24-27 – TARA THEATRE, EARLSFIELD, LONDON
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

For more information visit: http://www.townsendproductions.org.uk/

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