This week’s reviews

The Pitmen Painters

Lyceum

Writer Lee Hall returns to the subject of miners aspiring to leaven the darkness of the pit by seeking knowledge and illumination, in this inspiring tale of steely determination.

The Billy Elliott writer is a Geordie himself. So he is comfortably at home with this true story of a group of miners, who, in the name of self improvement, hire a posh professor to teach them the meaning of art. Of course it is an impossible job, so he sets them off on a journey of learning about art through doing it.

The result is a remarkable collection of paintings from a remarkable group of men who became known as The Ashington Group.

Nicholas Lumley’s portrayal of the rule-book ridden Workers’ Educational Association official is a real joy (despite the shenanigans with his generous trousers), as is Donald McBride as dour opportunist Jimmy. Louis Hilyer as lecturer Robert Lyon brings self doubt and frustration to the fore, especially when confronted by Joe Caffrey’s stridency as the tub thumping Harry Wilson.

Alan Powell

We Will Rock You

Motorpoint Arena

Ten years after We Will Rock You burst on to the West End stage, the show pumped up the volume – and action – to new heightsfor its first arena tour.

Ben Elton’s futuristic fantasy is set on the iPlanet, formerly Earth, where internet giant Globalsoft rules, gaga kids lead a virtual existence and live music is banned. The rebel Bohemians, led by unlikely heroes Galileo and Scaramouche (Mig Ayesa and Lauren Samuels), rediscover the place of living rock.

It’s an outlandish plot, contrived to showcase Queen’s music, and the band did a superb job. So did Brenda Edwards as Killer Queen, and ex-Corrie actor Kevin Kennedy as ageing hippy Pop. A mention too for Rolan Bell and Lucie Jones (X-Factor), who excel as Britney Spears and his girlfriend Meat – yes, you did read that correctly.

It’s part musical, part rock concert, making good use of CGI and video projections; lighting and costumes are superb. But much of the dialogue was lost in the arena acoustics.

Lesley Draper