Man of Straw – The story of the 1381 Peasants Revolt

This was the first Third Theatre production and charts the rise and fall of the English Peasant’s Revolt of 1381. The project was instigated by Artistic Director, Philip Knight, and musician, Michael Gosling, to develop a company that trained physically and vocally to create devised productions.

A mission statement sets out the aims of the production as; ‘To explore the possibilities of forming an integrated creative group of performers. To create a performance from an open text of songs, dance, historical events, and improvised situations. To find a new and vital form of storytelling relevant to today’s multi-cultural world.’

An advertisement was placed in ‘The Stage’:

The Peasants Revolt was chosen because we perceived it as a little-known story with the potential of a classic tragedy. Margaret Thatcher was introducing the poll tax at the time which, as it was a poll tax that had sparked the Peasants Revolt, gave the old story a new relevance. After a period of initial research, the company devised the production through a series of improvisions around the known historical events, initiated by the director. The material from these improvisations was then edited into set pieces, the physical work into basic choreographies which formed the structure of the production which followed the chronological order of the events. However up to and including the production a large part of the performance remained improvised. Although much of the physical choreography was repeated in shape, the speed, timing, energy and all the words were not fixed, with the actors reworking and renewing each scene every time it was performed.

The production was created for a bare stage. The actors wore the same generic costume of specially made leggings from jodhpur material, t-shirts and dyed string vests. Each actor had a broom stick as the only prop. All the actors were on stage for the whole production which was lit by white light. The actors played multiple characters distinguished by a change in physicality and voice. This meant scene changes were instantaneous.

Toured: 1988/1989

Tour Locations

Theatre in the Mill, Bradford

Bonner Hall, Dundee

MacRoberts Art centre, Stirling

The wool Exchange, Bradford (Festival)

The Powerhouse, Nottingham

The Harwich Arts Workshop, Harwich

Holgate Theatre, Neatherfield

The Drama Barn, York University

Nuffield Theatre, Lancaster University

The Community Arts Centre, Bradford

Bedlam Theatre, Edinburgh

St Andrews Art Centre, St Andrews

Theatre at the Poly, Leeds

Willesden Library Centre, London

The Theatre Consortium, Milton Keynes

Thirsk Town Hall, Thirsk

Funding Sources

Bradford city council, Bradford Festival, Bradford University, Bradford Community Arts Centre, Edinburgh City Council, Dundee Council


Published Reviews

Publicity Material