The Pitmen and us
I should probably start by saying I know nothing about art! However, the Pitmen didn’t to start with either, so that’s ok then.
What this has meant though is that throughout rehearsals we have been able to go on the same journey these men started 84 years ago. It has felt like we have been doing it right alongside them. So often during rehearsal we stop to simply discuss the art/issues/politics that these men were discussing; and just like them we do it together, as a group.
It has been a truly unique rehearsal process in that respect for me. I don’t think I have ever had such in-depth discussions about the material while trying to set it. Discovering the character is something I normally do in my own time, and as a natural consequence of learning the script and the actions. Instead, I have found my character through discussion with my fellow cast mates. Through each of us talking about what things do/could mean, how we feel these men would have reacted to things, what art and this journey meant to them. So like these men found out not just about art but about themselves, we too have found them; and in turn found out a bit about ourselves.
That I think is the true magic of what Lee Hall has created. Not only is this play about art and miners in the 30s/40s. He has put together a story that deals also with politics, social class, personal relationships and above all, about discovery. Discovery that can be done through art. And not just paintings on a wall, but The Arts. Literature, sculpture, theatre etc. Art is not simply about entertaining or providing something lovely and pleasing to look at. It is about telling a story, a message. To tell us something new, either about what we are reading or about ourselves. Lee Hall has skilfully given us both.
Hopefully we can take you the audience on this same journey that us and the Pitmen have taken. To use a bit of artistic license and paraphrase a line from the play – That is what is important about art. To transform who you are!
‘The Pitmen Painters’ will be performed by the Saddleworth Players at the Millgate Arts Centre, Delph, from 24 November until 1 December. Tickets £9 (£5 students) from our online booking site.
Peter Rigney, Nov 7, 2018