The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists – Audition

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

Novel by Robert Tressell, adapted by Howard Brenton

Date & Time: 15 – 20 October 2018

7:30pm (2:30pm matinee, Saturday 20 October)

Venue: Old Fire Station Theatre, 40 George Street, Oxford OX1 2AQ

Director: Ruth Readshaw

Assistant Director: Simon Tavener

Set Design, Lil Resende

Musical Director, Jeannie Harrison

‘Fat cat’ masks courtesy of the Guardian’s Steve Bell

Publicity Design, Cate Nunn

About the play

Howard Brenton’s adaptation of the classic novel The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists is a masterpiece of comedy, tragedy, and social history. It combines modern theatrical techniques using masks, with social realism and period songs.

The action is fast-paced and set in an Edwardian seaside town as we follow the lives of a group of painters and decorators renovating a house called The Cave. They are exploited by their comic ‘fat cat’ bosses at every turn, trying their best to do a decent job, avoid being laid off and lead a dignified life in the face of unfairness and poverty. The issues raised are as relevant today in the age of zero hours contracts and the gig economy.

This is an ensemble piece with a dozen or so roles for men and women of all ages. The scenes unfold in quick succession with actors moving swiftly about the stage moving props against the backdrop of a doll’s house to represent the house. The piece is enlivened by the workers singing period songs, going on a works beano, and generally having fun.

All cast must be available all day for the get in and preview show on Monday 15 October.

Rehearsals begin on 5 August for 10 weeks, 3 times a week, Sunday 2.30 – 5.30 p.m., Tuesday 7.30 – 9.30 p.m., Thursday 7.30 – 9.30 p.m.

Important Dates

First round auditions:

Thursday 7 June - 7.30pm

Sunday 10 June - 6pm

Auditions take place at the URC in Summertown

Recalls (by invitation only):

Sunday 17 June - 6pm

Map to the URC


We are looking for energetic and versatile actors with some singing ability for the following roles. Some of the roles marked with an * can be played by the same actor, and some marked ** can be played by a female playing a man:

The workers

Owen - male

Playing age 35 – 45, any regional accent

The moral voice of the play, Owen is a skilled craftsman who is a bit of an outsider. He moved to the town to find work and is fiercely critical of the system which he sees as exploitative and unfair. He is serious, brave, and not afraid to stand up for what he believes. Leading role.

Norah – female (can play a masked boss)**

Playing age 25 – 40, same regional accent as her husband Owen. She is supportive of Owen’s political views. Norah’s child died a few years before. She too is serious and compassionate as she tries to help her friends.

Easton – male (can play a masked boss)**

Playing age 25 – 40, working class south coast accent. He is proud and struggles with debt. Easily led by the other men, he drinks too much and often lets down his wife and child.

Ruth Easton – female (can play a masked boss)**

Playing age 25 – 35, same regional accent at Easton, working class. Ruth struggles to feed and clothe her small family and worries that her baby isn’t getting enough food. She is unhappy and downtrodden and feels her husband doesn’t love her. She has an affair with Slyme.

Slyme – male (can play a masked boss)**

Playing age 25 – 40, working class with same regional accent as most of the characters. He is a sneaky man and persuades Ruth to accept him as their lodger to ease the family finances. Her husband resents the arrangement and Ruth is lulled into an affair with Slyme. Joins in the singing.

Crass – male

Playing age 35 – 50, the foreman whom the men mistrust. He is a bully and tries to frighten the men into cutting corners to save money. Dishonest and the boss’s spy, he menaces the workers. Occasionally joins the singing. South coast accent.

Philpott – male* (can be played by a woman) (can play a masked boss)**

Playing age 60+, he is getting old and has an injured leg, which he must disguise from the bosses or face being laid off. Kindly, wanting to please, he’s a good skilled worker. He is eventually laid off, with all the consequences that entails, and dies tragically at the end of the play. Often leads the singing. South coast accent.

Bert – male* (can be played by a woman)

Playing age 14 – 25, he is the apprentice and full of youthful enthusiasm. He is bulled by Crass the foreman, and strikes up a friendship with Owen, who influences him with his socialist views. Bert makes a ‘panorama’ and is central to one of the comic scenes. South coast accent.

Barrington – male

Playing age 35+, an enigmatic figure who is also an outsider from Manchester. Must speak with regional accent. He is an observer, and it becomes apparent that he is a professional political agitator of independent means.

Bundy – male* (can be played by a woman) (can play a masked boss)**

Playing age 50+, he is one of the painters and decorators and is in most of the scenes working away. Joins in the signing and can be a character who ‘morphs’ into a fat cat boss. South coast accent.

Harlow – male*(can be played by a woman) (can play a masked boss)**

Playing age 30+. Same kind of role as Bundy. South coast accent.

The bosses

Hunter – male

Playing age 50+, he is the works manager and responsible for driving profit through cost-cutting. He often arrives at the yard unannounced on his bike and tries to catch the men out. The men are afraid of him and despise his tactics. Deeply obsequious to the bosses, he is a devoutly religious man who fails to see the contradictions in his behaviour. A quite tragic and mournful character. Accent is like the men’s, but he puts on airs and graces.

Rushton – male

Playing age 50+, he owns the business and is depicted as one of the ‘fat cat’ bosses. Corrupt and self-serving, he is loathed by all. Speaks with a faux RP accent.

Grinder, Didlum, Sweater, Councillor Weakling** – played by workmen in masks

Any playing ages, these are corrupt cartoon bosses with the usual vices – smoke cigars, drink brandy, eat too much, and lacking in morals. They move in a stylised manner. Councillor Weakling shows more moral fortitude and questions some of the dishonesty shown by the others. Accents a mix of faux posh and RP.

Modern day

Julie – female

Playing age 30 +, she is a modern character who is viewing the house in modern times. She often appears on stage, witnesses the action and interacts with Owen.

Alan – male**

Playing age 30+, married to Julie and appears at the beginning and end of the play.

Kirsty – female**

Playing age 25+, Estate agent showing Julie and Alan the house.

Production roles

We are looking for help with stage management, production management, props and costumes.

Auditions will be held at the URC in Summertown opposite South Parade. It is very close to bus stops from the city centre and north Oxford, and there is some street parking nearby. The hall is at the rear of the church – follow the path down the right hand side of the church.

Please come in time to start at the advertised time and be prepared to stay for up to 2 hours. There is no need to prepare anything beforehand - you'll be given a selection of short monologues and scenes on the night.

It would be helpful if you could bring a completed audition form, but forms will also be available on the day.

If you have any specific needs with regards to access or any other issues, please do get in contact with Ruth, who will help if she can.

All OTG auditions are run according to the OTG audition policy and harrassment policy

What if I can’t make those dates and times?

If you are interested in auditioning, but are unable to come to any of the given dates, please contact Ruth and she will try to see you at another time, if possible.