The Pitmen Painters

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The Pitmen Painters by Lee Hall

  • Lee Hall was born in Newcastle in 1966
  • He wrote Billy Elliot 
  • the play covers 13 years : from 1934 to 1947 
  • it is inspired by a book
  • in intro he say the 'majority still feel included from what we do' 
  • and that 'the art world remains disproportionately cluttered with the sons and daughters of the middle classes.'
  • He talks about growing up in the 60's and 70's and being the first generation to benifit from the Labour Government of 1945 
  • 'especially in education, had come of age understading that the arts were fundamental to a life full lived. '
  • He says he wrote the play ( he supposes ) to 'remind myself that something really did get lost, or at least that an opportunity was missed '
  • 'it is not necessarily nostalgic- for if there is something to remember, there is also something yet to be won.'
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The plays' setting

  • Play is set in Ashington
  • also in Northumberland, Newcaste, London and Edinburgh
  • characters 
  • George Brown - Union Rep
  • Oliver Kilbourn- miner 
  • Jimmy Floyd- miner 
  • Young lad- unemployed 
  • Harry Wilson- Dental Mechanic - was in WW1 so can no longer go down the pits due to his injuries 
  • Robert Lyon - expert on art
  • Susan Parks - does nude modelling for artists
  • Helen Sutherland - rich elderly heiress 
  • Ben Nicholson - famous painter at time ( does modern art) 
  • all the named characters were real people - the play is based on a true story 
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Act One - summary

  • Opens with statistics and slides 
  • general banter
  • the 'young lad' is unemployed and wants to join them- nome of them want him to stay -but Harry Wilson allows him and even pays for him to stay
  • the young lad is George's nephew 
  • this interaction shows that it is an exclusive group- it makes the miners feel superior over the lad 
  • Art Appreciation- the men are upset/ annoyed that Lyon is not a Professor as they have asked for and paid for one
  • electricity- Lyon don't realised that they wouldn't have electricity in their shed
  • they 'borrow some form the girl guides next door 
  • Lyon starts off by showing the men some of Titian's work - a pre raphelite painter
  • the men have not heart of many of the painters Lyon mentions - which astonds him
  • they had imagined something different
  • Lyon is suprised that the men have never been to an art gallery before
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Act One continuation of summary

  • p27 Oliver talks about his painting 
  • someone says 'that incrediable' 
  • they critique each others paintaings 
  • 'delgue'
  • they talk about the 'meaning of art' - each giving their perspectives
  • Lyon's painting is shown- Oliver is very interested and takes the class v. seriously
  • Lyon is impressed by the quality of Oliver's work and the group's in general
  • they debate the idea of 'good art'
  • Lyon gives Oliver some art books 
  • a nude lady comes ( to model for them) - their is confusion which is humourous 
  • rich heiress Helen Sutherland is introduced
  • she enters much to the men's suprise and looks at their paintings
  • she then asks them a lot of questions
  • she asks to buy Jimmy's painting
  • an argument follows - does his painting belong to the W.E.A group 
  • finally agree she will buy it for £3 ( worth a lot more back then)- that they will split between them and she will also buy them new paints- very generous 
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end of Act One

  • p64- firstly they unit against Lyon about paintings
  • but then there is a shift in the group's dynamics - they are no longer ignorant about art/ paintings 
  • they take over the presentation - they have grown in confidence
  • they become 'us' and say on p72 -' we became a group' 
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Humour

  • aspect of tone
  • humour can arise out of features such as situation, charactor language
  • sucessful literary anaysis depends on the ability to distingush between  different types of humour e.g satire ( serious ) , slapstick ,fanatastic ,bizarre , exaggarating , elements of absurdity
  • comic characters ( e.g Jimmy) -humous characters with inventive names
  • verbal humour e.g jokes , puns ,use of irony and exaggeration
  • moral viewpoint - used for conventional means e.g naughty behaviour or comic effect but we know that good will prevail or may be subversise
  • for example in this play the nude model 
  • contrast of reality of situation/ their optimism
  • socalisim - the way today's readers would approach this book
  • to a certain extent the playwright may be considered to be treating the pit miners as stupid- however he clearly conveys to the reader that the arts only seems to belong to the privilaged
  • Hall uses their accent and apparent ignorance of Lyon ( how cannot understand what they are saying) as a humourous device
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Dramatic Effects

  • What the audience might feel/ react to perforamnce
  • depend on particular staging - you must considered the dramastist's purpose
  • plot: is the plot being revealed or futhered?
  • character : estalished or revealed ?
  • relationships : between characters -are they being developed
  • mood : is particular mood being created or intensified
  • ideas and themes : are thematic issues being presented ?
  • visual and auaral effects : is this scene spectacular, farcial , visually arresting ? 
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Aims for exam : ( Level 5 A01 and AO2 ) exam marki

  • Discriminating application and exploration of play
  • Provide a consistently  efffective arugment with textual examples
  • aplies a discriminating range of concepts and terminology
  • secure expression with carefully chosen language and sophisticted transitions
  • Display discrimination when evauluating howe meanings are shaped in the textss 
  • Show critical understanding of the writer's craft 
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Aims for exam ( Level 5 - AO3 and AO5)

  • Discriminating an evaluative approach 
  • Deals in a discriminating way with significance and influence of contextual facotrs
  • Evaluates different interpretions and alternative readings of text  and explores these confidently 

Also consider timescoping - how in this case the playwright managed to go through 13 years - how they communicated this to the audience  

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Summary of mark scheme for Poetry and Drama

  • line of argument ( what is your reaction to the statement / what extend do you agree /disagree ) and why and why not 
  • several views needed
  • use examples
  • focusing on dramatic/ literary methods - name them
  • quality of writing - write clearly and fluently 
  • show awarness of how writer works
  • use contexts - ake clear links with relevant context to your pints
  • different interpretations -enaging with the debate presented 
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Context of play

  • Called the Workers Educational Association - WEA
  • Robert Lyon - a lecturer at Armstrong College in Newcastle ( part of Durham Uni) invited to form an art appreciation class
  • after a few sessions of showing them famous artists work
  • he has a notion that the class members should  experiment for themselves in different techniques - they have always learnt with their hands as they are coal miners
  • they start with lino-cuttings and then do weekly painting and bring in the results to crticise as a group
  • soon the work is fit to be showened and discussed in public
  • the Group hold first exhibition in Newcastle
  • the Group soon develop its own impetus - motivation  
  • their painting are Ashington-centred depicitng their surrondings and daily lives
  • represented a true development ofdocumentary culture
  • the men painted their own lives , testified to experiences that no one else from trained art backgrounds could understand
  • honest pictures -'realism in the raw' 
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An efflorescence of art created by these miners w

  • nothing else like it has happened in the world ( probably) 
  • clash in play between fiction and reality
  • nature /nurture
  • concerns of audience - political / modern v ancient - male or female - cultural
  • mannual labour -creative -what did society think at time ? 
  • conflict between artist/ mining
  • universal story of individuals succeding at doing something they should do
  • what is art and who does it belong to 
  • regional flavour of lanuage
  • viewpoint- like a fable 
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