LIVING in this X Factor universe can sometimes make it difficult to imagine a time when talent was something that could only be forged on the red-hot anvil of experience rather than artificially created.

Consider the recent past. The great bluesmen who forsook field and factory, paid their dues, yet nevertheless prevailed… the British working class lads of the 1960s who worked on production lines during the day, rocked their nights away and finally found riches and fame.

Yes, the triumph of ordinary, working people over adversity. Without doubt, the British have loved their underdog ever since Robin Hood was just a lad in green tights.

The Pitmen Painters falls perfectly into this tradition. It tells the true story of a group of Northumberland miners who in 1934 hired a professor to teach an art appreciation class.

By day, the men cut coal out of the ground. By night, they learn all about art theory. But they have no time to waste… and are soon slapping on the paint, eventually attracting the notice of the leading avant-garde artists of the day.

The men rapidly gain a sense of creative fulfilment but also feelings of bewilderment as they find themselves transported to the bourgeois world of galleries and exhibitions where they are fawned over and feted by their middle class mentors.

Written by Lee Hall, creator of hit show Billy Elliot, this is indeed a life-affirming narrative, a hymn to hope, and homage to the unquenchable spirit that drives our species.

And doing it more than justice is a cast that has quite obviously immersed themselves in a story of men who refuse to be condemned to a lifetime spent trapped in the bowels of the earth.

There are fine performances from Louis Hilyer, Catherine Dryden, Joe Caffrey, Philip Correia, Suzy Cooper, Nicholas Lumley and Donald McBride, all whom convey or bring out the pathos and humour of people refusing to accept the grinding inevitability of their lives.

Special mention should also be made of Riley Jones, doubling up as a wannabe horny-handed son of toil and a rather posh chap whose days are most certainly not spent two miles underground.

Bill Kenwright’s sterling production, ably presented by The Live Theatre Newcastle, runs until Saturday (March 30). It is a thought-provoking parable of mortal man overcoming the brutality of industrial life and – despite everything - ultimately prevailing.