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The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Chichester Festival Theatre | reviews, news & interviews

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Chichester Festival Theatre

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Chichester Festival Theatre

Robert Tressell's working-class satire still has meaning in the banking crisis

'Like Animal Farm in reverse': The workforce play their exploiters in 'The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists'Helen Warner

If you could boil down Robert Tressell’s brilliant socialist novel to a single observation, it would be that rich people do nothing, while the poor work their (ragged-trousered) arses off. So it’s a very clever conceit on the part of Howard Brenton’s new adaptation for the Chichester Festival, as well as a thrifty move for what must be one of its lower-budget productions, to have members of the workforce play their well-to-do exploiters. They line up near the beginning as if queuing for stewed tea or tools, and instead receive padded waistcoats and rubbery facemasks, all tusk-like moustaches and flushed pink cheeks. It’s like the metamorphic end of Animal Farm going into reverse.

"Rather one-sided, wouldn’t you say?" asked a plummy voice behind me as the two hours drew to a close

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