University of Exeter Drama present
Comrades – The Story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs
A radical play with songs by Tony Lidington (in collaboration with Peter Jewell and the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum)
This is a workshop production of excerpts from a new play, which was originally commissioned by the Northcott Theatre in 2016. This stage adaptation is the first attempt to realise the script and vision for the stage – rooted in the pre-cinematic cult film of the same name by Bill Douglas & Peter Jewell, released in 1986. Directed by the author, the cast consists of an ensemble of students studying Drama at the University.
The story of The Tolpuddle Martyrs is a powerful one that resonates throughout history and Bill Douglas has posthumously emerged as a cult figure of British filmmaking. Pre-cinema is very much on the cutting-edge of contemporary academic thinking about storytelling and media archaeology – University of Exeter Drama & Film departments & The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum are at the core of that interest. This is a play with songs that is topical and relevant both in its form and content: the issue of trades union representation is very much part of current thinking, as zero hours contracts and part-time working have become the norm. Workers’ rights and political representation are looked-at through the lens of this historical story to take a more objective and considered view of ‘hot’ political topics.
The production will be appropriate for all ages – it will be moving and even funny in parts. However, it is not afraid to tackle serious issues and make contemporary comment.
The story is not just an historical yarn: this story, at this time, is both relevant and vital – whilst trades unionism and workers’ rights are currently under attack, the parallels of the Nineteenth Century struggle for workers’ rights and those of the 21st Century are appropriate and real.