George Orwell’s son plays in a musical

(The Guardian) – Richard Blair narrates Beyond Wigan Pier, which looks at the town’s fortunes since 1930s. George Orwell’s son is to star in a new musical inspired by The Road To Wigan Pier, written and performed by the people of Wigan. Richard Blair, who was adopted by Orwell six years before his death in 1950, will perform as the narrator in Beyond Wigan Pier.

It will premiere on 27 April at The Edge, a new 1,000-seat theatre a stone’s throw from the original Wigan Pier, a long-demolished coal-loading staithe on the Leeds and Liverpool canal. The show is written by Alan Gregory, a local music teacher and composer who is CEO of Pianos, Pies and Pirouettes, a social enterprise company that received worldwide publicity last year for introducing Wigan Warriors rugby players to ballet.

The musical will not just concentrate on the depressed town documented by Orwell in the 1930s but explore what has happened to Wigan since and what it could be like in the future, according to Gregory.

Wiganers have an ambivalent relationship to Orwell’s classic, which documented the appalling living and working conditions in the industrial north of England, said Gregory. “The Road To Wigan Pier is both a source of pride and embarrassment, in almost equal measure, to the people of Wigan, as is the site of the actual pier itself,” said Gregory, as he appealed for members of the public to crowdfund a project to take the show on the road and “take on” London’s West End.

“On the one hand, it represents the industrial heritage of our town; as one of a number of Northern, cotton and coal ‘power houses’, blossoming in the 19th and early 20th centuries through, the toil and gritty determination of its mostly working class population. On the other hand, the picture portrayed of Wigan in Orwell’s celebrated social treatise is one of a town beaten by misery, filth and poverty.”

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