New adaptation of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists at Fringe 2012
Stephen Lowe's adaptation of an Edwardian novel is more pertinent than ever
This article is from 2012.
‘It seems, unfortunately, to get more relevant everyday,’ says playwright Stephen Lowe of his adaptation (staged at this year's Fringe by Townsend Productions and Unite Scotland) of Robert Tressell’s classic Edwardian novel about working men’s lives. ‘What he was describing was a world where, for the poor, there was no safety net to keep them from falling into abject poverty. Well, we’re returning to the Edwardian world with alarming speed: the rich are getting richer and poor are getting poorer.’
Since it was first staged in 1979, Lowe’s play has had many revivals, including three directed by Stephen Daldry, an Apartheid-era reworking in Johannesburg two years ago and now a two-hander at the Fringe. Why is Tressell’s book so suited to the stage?
‘I put work at the centre of it,’ says Lowe (who also has a new play, Just a Gigolo, about Tressell’s contemporary DH Lawrence, at the Fringe this year), ‘and there’s nothing audiences like more than seeing people working. I wanted it to portray the difficulties of working life as well as the banter between the labourers. It’s about resistance, struggle, comradeship. I don’t feel it’s negative in any way, though the world around it might be.’
Assembly George Square, 623 3030, 4–27 Aug (not 13), noon, £11–12 (£9–10). Previews 1–3 Aug, £8 (£6.50).