Sepia drawing of a tree with a skull shaped like a fist at its heart. six figures are standing underneath. A scroll , banner bears the text COMRADES remember thine end

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)

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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.

The performance will be followed by a post-show discussion

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