Pioneering novel comes to life at Bedford venue

Neil Gore in The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists
Neil Gore in The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

A landmark depiction of working-class life takes to the stage in Bedford this September.

Robert Tressell’s 1914 novel The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists will be presented as a one-man show comprising an Edwardian Magic Lantern Show, political conjuring tricks and live music and song. The audience joins the performer through the events surrounding the renovation of a large townhouse, meeting the many familiar and infamous characters from the book.

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists is a novel of humour and sharply observed characterisation, as well as being 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 nor just.

Writer and actor Neil Gore, who performs in the show, said: “What’s so special about the book, and what to expect from the play, is how it relates so closely to everyone’s experience of work – the workplace hierarchy, petty and amusing incidents of workplace rivalry, workers’ good-natured humour and banter, hostility to political change and the acceptance of greed as inevitable and a natural way of life.”

The play is being presented by Townsend Theatre Productions at The Place on Saturday September 29.

Tickets cost £10 or £9 for concessions.

Visit theplacebedford.org.uk or call 01234 354321 to book.