PICK Me Up Theatre have picked another excellent choice of play for a York premiere, one that will go down in the company’s development as more important artistically than financially. That’s another way of saying it’s doing better on stage than at the box office, but it is not too late to swell the audience figures.

Here’s why you should see it. It’s penned by Lee Hall, the north eastern writer of the film and musical Billy Elliot; it transferred from Newcastle’s Live Theatre to the National Theatre and onwards to the West End and even Broadway. It’s funny and angry and poignant and political and artistic, just as Billy Elliot was with its twin worlds of miners and dancers.

This time, Hall goes back to the peak days of the pits in the 1930s, when 1.2 million worked at Britain’s collieries, ten hours a day for not much more than £2 a week. Under the auspices of the Workers’ Educational Association, a group of Ashington miners took up art history classes with erudite tutor Robert Lyon (Mark Hird).

A class and language division was an initial barrier, conveyed humorously by Hall and in turn Robert Readman’s cast, but the miners flourished and attained brief notoriety/curiosity value in the art world as “the Ashington Group” when they took up their brushes and attracted the patronage and ultimately patronising dismissal of art collector Helen Sutherland (Susannah Baines).

Whereas Billy Elliot could dance his way to London, the miners in Hall’s impassioned play feel the strongest tie to the colliery, and a glass ceiling divides them from both the rarefied academia of Lyon, for all his encouragement of their endeavours, and the vulture in Sutherland picking at their artistic bones.

Hird and Baines both perform with a crisp cutting edge; Katie Glover catches the eye as candid-speaking life-class model Susan Parks, and above all, the biggest round of applause goes to those who have risen superbly to mastering the Ashington accent, matching the one native north easterner, Bill Laverick.

Craig Kirby’s irascible, officious official is a comic gem; Riley Anderson and Graham Mitchell both impress and Martin Rowley takes centre stage with aplomb as Oliver Kilbourn, the most talented artist caught between the pull of the pit community and the chance to express himself through paint. He may never give a better performance.

Adam Moore’s video/sound design completes this tremendous production with footage from the pits and stills of the Ashington Group’s artwork. Pick up a ticket now.

The Pitmen Painters, Pick Me Up Theatre, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, 7.30pm tonight and 2.30pm and 7.30pm tomorrow. Box office: 01904 623568 or thelittleboxoffice.com