The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

Townsend Productions in association with Harrogate Theatre and Leighton Buzzard Library Theatre

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

By Stephen Lowe, based on the book by Robert Tressell

Adapted for two-hander by Neil Gore

Directed by Louise Townsend

Musical Director of arrangement of songs: John Kirkpatrick

Designer: Fine Time Fontayne

Lighting Design: Brian O’Carroll

Cast: Neil Gore and Jonathan Markwood


Monday 12th October at 7.30pm -The CLF Art Café, Block A, Bussey Building, Peckham

Followed by a Q&A with playwright Stephen Lowe and actor Johnny Vegas (subject to availability)

Townsend Productions is delighted to announce that it will be staging their acclaimed two hander production of Stephen Lowe’s version of Robert Tressell’s The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists at the Bussey Building in Peckham from 5-31 October at 7.30pm.

The production, which is produced in association with Harrogate Theatre and Leighton Buzzard Library Theatre, is the first part of a double bill of political plays to be performed at the Bussey Building throughout October and November. From 2-14 November the company will be staging their latest production United We Stand, which tells the story of the controversial Shrewsbury 24 and the imprisonment of Ricky Tomlinson and Des Warren.

Using instrumentation, songs of the period, movement, physicalisation, comedy and characterisation to create the spirit and clarity of the political message, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists shares with its audience a year in the life of a group of painters and decorators, as they renovate a three-storey town house for Mayor Sweater. It traces their struggle for survival in a complacent and stagnating Edwardian England. These workers are the “philanthropists” who throw themselves into back-breaking work for poverty wages in order to generate profit for their masters.

Combining Townsend Productions’ trademark cast of two playing multiple roles, grand theatrical style and wit with popular and political songs arranged by renowned folk musician John Kirkpatrick , the production, remains as vivid and as relevant as when it was written almost a century ago.

Stephen Lowe’s version of the story was first seen in 1978, when Joint Stock Theatre Company toured the country playing to packed houses. The play was revived at the Half Moon Theatre, London in 1983 and again for a touring production by the Birmingham Rep in 1991. Stephen’s plays have been staged at London’s Royal Court (Tibetan Inroads, Moving Pictures and Body and Soul) Royal Shakespeare Company, (Divine Gossip/ Ostrovsky’s The Storm) Hampstead Theatre (Revelations) as well as premieres at most of the leading repertory theatres. His work has been staged by directors/ producers including Alan Ayckbourn, Richard Eyre, Steven Daldry, Danny Boyle, Jonathan Church, Annie Castledine, and Thaddeus O’Sullivan. His television work includes his BBC-2 adaptation of Stendhal’s Scarlet and Black starring staring Ewan McGregor and Rachel Weisz, and the four-part BBC2 psycho-thriller Tell-Tale Hearts starring Bill Patterson Stephen also written over 100 episodes of Coronation Street.

Lowe said about the production, “After 30 years involvement with ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’ since my original version with Joint Stock in 1978, I’ve seen many productions from Alabama to Perth, Cape Town to Nottingham, and each time performers and audiences alike have felt the piece to be totally relevant and ‘of the time’. This new two handed version follows that tradition and speaks out to the present economic and political

reality in a clear, uncompromising but hugely entertaining way, through the energetic and brilliant performances of the two performers and storytellers.”

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’ excellent cast features Neil Gore (Song of Singapore, Chichester Festival Theatre and the West end) and Jonathan Markwood (Return to the Forbidden Planet, National Tour).

The production is directed by Louise Townsend, designed by Fine Time Fontayne, lighting by Brian O’Carroll and features music by John Kirkpatrick, one of the most prolific and acclaimed figures on the English folk scene.

Throughout the run there will be post show discussions on the play and it’s relevance to today’s society with amongst others playwright Stephen Lowe, Megan Dobney (General Secretary of SERTUC), actors Johnny Vegas and Liz Carr, Christine Blower (NUT) and Doug Nichols (Gen Sec GFTU)

The production is produced in association with Harrogate Theatre and Leighton Buzzard Library Theatre and sponsored by Southwark Socialists, part of the Independent Socialist Network and has the backing of the unions UNITE, NUT, Unison, RMT, GMB and Amiel Melburn trust.

For more info visit



Dates: Monday 5- Saturday 31 October at 7.30pm

Venue: The CLF Art Café, Block A, Bussey Building, 133 Rye Lane, Peckham, SE15 4ST

Ticket prices: £12 (Concessions £10; Mondays all tickets £5)

Box office details: 07812 063 409 or online at