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Michelle Armstrong-Spielberg 10/21/13 Green The Pitmen Painters Live Play Review The Pitmen Painters, by Lee Hall,

performed at 1st Stage on Saturday, October 5, 2013, is based on the true story of a group of English miners who become renowned artists. The play explores the role of art in the lives of these painters from 1934 to 1948 and arts intersection with social class and politics. The play begins when three miners, Oliver Kilbourn, Jimmy Floyd, and George Brown, a dental mechanic, Harry Wilson, and an unemployed boy take an art appreciation class, but their teacher, Robert Lyon, has the miners create their own paintings when they are unable to interpret the paintings he shows them. The group has amusing arguments and insights about the meaning of their own paintings and those of famous artists as they discover the significance that every piece of art can have. During their exhibitions, the miners encounter stereotypes about their socio-economic status, and Oliver debates remaining a miner or becoming a full time painter supported by the wealthy art patron Helen Sutherland. After Lyon gets a job as a professor at Edinburgh University from the fame he achieves with the miners, Oliver criticizes Lyons drawing as flat and without feeling, and Lyon, tells Oliver that his art cannot change the world, only he himself can. On the eve of the nationalization of the coal industry, Oliver has transferred his artistic talents to painting political banners, trying to change the world himself, but Harry challenges that view, arguing that art itself changes the world, not necessarily the artist. The production team did a creative job in conveying the times and context for the play. Bradley Porter creates the dismal environment that the miners live in at the beginning of the play with mining sounds of axes clinking on rock and water dripping. While the characters are not in their hometown, the swing and jazz music accompanies the scenes and follows that of the time period. Katie Touarts costumes are similarly very appropriate for the time period and the socio-

Michelle Armstrong-Spielberg 10/21/13 Green economic status of the characters. Oliver, Jimmy, George, and Harry wear brown, loosely fitted suits to show their working class status. The young lad wears plain slacks with suspenders and a sweater. Robert Lyon has sharper clothing: a fitted black suit with a tie. Helen Sutherland always has nice, colorful clothing to show her wealth and high socio-economic status. Steven Royal, with the help of director Stevie Zimmerman, makes the set simple and flexible. The stage fluctuates easily from an art studio to a gallery, school, or house as the actors move chairs and easels to different positions on the stage. A miniature art studio stands at the corner of the stage with a smock hanging on an easel and a desk with painting supplies. Splattered paint covers the wooden floor. Giant canvases form the backdrop, three of which are actually screen projectors. Zimmerman effectively uses these projectors to show the paintings as the characters are seeing them. She projects them in a specific order with close ups of aspects of a painting the characters discuss. The actors are looking out towards the audience when they are looking at paintings, but the audience sees the paintings behind the actors. In the first classes, the miners are sitting in rigid rows or a line to show the separation between them and the teacher. As the play progresses, they sit in a circle to show the equality among all of them. While all of the actors were realistic in their character portrayals, Dylan Myers and Alden Michels stood out in their roles as Oliver Kilbourn and George Brown, respectively. Myers and Michels use posture, facial expressions, and tone of voice to show each characters unique personality and development. At the beginning of the play, Myers shows Olivers low status when addressing the teacher, conveying his uncertainty about his interpretations and the quality of his work. As he becomes more confident in himself, Myers shows Olivers transformation to a higher status as Mr. Lyon praises Oliver for his paintings and Oliver refuses Helen Sutherlands

Michelle Armstrong-Spielberg 10/21/13 Green job offer. Myers also has an intellectual gaze when studying paintings and a calm tone of voice to convey Olivers composed demeanor. Michels shows Georges confidence from the start as he assumes charge of the classes sponsored by the miners union. Michels portrays Georges uptight personality in a humorous way. George wants everything to be precise and orderly, from the paintings to the class itself, and throws a fit at any small change. Michels uses a shrill tone of voice when George gets these fits, and his face becomes scrunched up and red. Michels maintains his confidence throughout the play, but also shows his characters growing understanding of art and its role in society. The play leaves a viewer wondering about arts role in politics and society and about whether the miner/painters figured out whether art is compatible with the working class life, is a reflection of an individual or his place in society, or can be a tool for social change. Although the play does not have a satisfying ending, the cast and crew of The Pitmen Painters create a humorous and educational drama about this extremely talented group of painters.