See the Play, Buy the Art; Art Imitating Art: Ian Kelly Playing Artist Robert Lyon in the Pitmen Painters

The Evening Standard (London, England), January 30, 2009 | Go to article overview

See the Play, Buy the Art; Art Imitating Art: Ian Kelly Playing Artist Robert Lyon in the Pitmen Painters


Byline: LOUISE JURY

SEEING the show and buying the poster is commonplace. Watching the play and buying the drawing is a new departure.

But that is what is happening at the National Theatre where actor Ian Kelly produces a full-scale charcoal sketch on stage every night during the play, The Pitmen Painters.

The works are being put on sale in response to demand from audience members.

The play by Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall tells the real-life story of a group of miners near Newcastle in the Thirties, who formed an art appreciation class and learned to paint.

Over 15 years, they produced hundreds of paintings of their everyday lives and became famous through exhibitions of their work.

Kelly, 42, plays Robert Lyon, who draws his friend, Oliver Kilbourn, played by Chris Connel.

Each night one of the portraits goes on sale, with a proportion of the proceeds going to the Woodhorn Colliery Museum in Ashington, which houses the permanent collection of the miners' work.

"It seemed the right thing to do," Kelly said. "If enough money is raised, an art scholarship will be established, too.

"During the first run of the play [last year] I got a bit embarrassed when people would ask at the bar afterwards and I would end up selling and asking for some beer money for the cast. …

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