Written by Lee Hall, who created hit musical Billy Elliot and directed by Max Roberts, the play tells the story of a group of Ashington miners who in 1934 hired a professor to teach an art appreciation evening class. Rapidly abandoning theory in favour of practice, the pitmen began to paint. Within a few years the most avant-garde artists became their friends and their work was acquired by prestigious collections; but every day they worked, as before, down the mine.
Examining the lives of a group of ordinary men that do extraordinary things, The Pitmen Painters is described in marketing materials as "a humorous, deeply moving and timely look at art, class and politics."
From Theatre Royal, Windsor The Pitmen Painters will tour to Cambridge, Eastbourne, Nottingham, Guildford, Blackpool, Plymouth, Richmond, Darlington, Glasgow, Malvern, Newcastle, Southend, Leeds, Brighton, Tunbridge Wells and Coventry, finishing in Bromley on 24 September 2011. Producers are then hopeful that the show will transfer to the West End.
The Pitmen Painters debuted at Newcastle’s Live Theatre in September 2007, transferring to the NT Cottesloe from 21 May (previews from 19 May) where it played in rep until 25 June 2008. The production was briefly remounted in the NT Lyttelton in September 2009 before starting an autumn tour to Newcastle, Cardiff, Milton Keynes, Salford, Sheffield, Norwich, Bath and Plymouth. The show then went to New York, opening at Broadway's Manhattan Theatre Club in September 2010.
Many of the original National and Broadway company remain with the show including Christopher Connel, Deka Walmsley, David Whitaker, Brian Lonsdale and Trevor Fox. They are joined in the cast by David Leonard, Caroline Faber and Viktoria Kay.
Lee Hall wrote the screenplay for Billy Elliot and adapted it for the West End where it opened in 2005. The show has since scooped Best Musical prizes in the Laurence Olivier, Evening Standard, Critics’ Circle and Whatsonstage.com Awards. It has toured internationally and transferred to Broadway in November 2009, where it won ten Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
His other plays include Spoonface Steinberg which transferred to the West End after unprecedented listener response as a BBC radio drama, Cooking with Elvis which also transferred from the Live Theatre to the West End after positive response as a radio play, and an adaptation of Herman Heijerman’s The Good Hope for the National Theatre.
The Pitmen Painters, which is inspired by a book by William Feaver is produced by Bill Kenwright who presents a Live Theatre Newcastle and National Theatre co-production.