A local dramatic group not so far covered in this blog are the Progressive Players. They’re an amateur company founded in 1920 at the Westfield Hall in Alexandra Road, Gateshead. Since 1939 their permanent home has been the Little Theatre, Saltwell View, opposite Saltwell Park. In 2013 the theatre underwent extensive renovations funded by a bequest from a former member, Jim Ord. It now has a two-story extension at the front providing a lot more space in the foyer and bar areas. The auditorium itself is comfortable with plenty of leg room, and wherever you sit you have an excellent view of the stage.
The work of north-east playwright Lee Hall features in the course I’m doing with the Live Theatre, so last night I went to see the Progressive Players’ production of The Pitman Painters. The play premiered at the Live Theatre in September 2007, before transferring to the National Theatre in 2008.
Last night’s performance was directed by Sonia Dunlop, and the cast were; Steve Bones, Nathan Butterfield, Richie Hamilton, Ian Johnson, Jo Rendall, Graeme Rendall, Grace Ridley, Alex Russell and Dan Wilde. The play follows a group of Ashington pitmen, who (as part of the Workers Education Authority founded at the turn of the last century) embark on an art appreciation course. They eventually become adept painters themselves, much of their work ending up in serious art collections the world over. They remained throughout, however, working miners. Richie Hamilton as Oliver, Alex Russell as George and Jo Rendall as Helen Sutherland, particularly stood out in this talented cast, with well-timed delivery of poignant and frequently humourous lines. Mention must also be given to the lighting set by Mark Dunlop and Andrea O’Neill.
Unsurprisingly the play has sold out, but if you would like to see it I’m told that season ticket holders sometimes cancel at the last minute. You’ll have to get in quick though, tomorrow (February 20th) is the last night. Otherwise, there’s still much more to enjoy, to find out exactly what, click on the link. Little Theatre Gateshead