Tag Archives: Ben Goddard

The Hired Man
★★★

Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch

The Hired Man

The Hired Man

Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch

Reviewed – 30th April 2019

★★★

 

“the songs range from rousing ensemble numbers through romantic duets and tortured solos in time-honoured musical theatre fashion”

 

The Hired Man was published in 1969; the first part of Melvyn Bragg’s Cumbrian trilogy. It is set in and around a small Cumbrian village and follows the fortunes of John Tallentire, a farm labourer and miner, from his youth at the turn of the century, through the first World War, until the time just after his wife’s death, about twenty years later. Bragg wrote it as a homage to his grandfather, and it is an unashamedly nostalgic take on Britain’s rural past.

The story begins at a hiring fair, and John is taken on as a farm labourer. His young wife Emily comes to the town to join him, but her eye soon strays and she finds herself yearning for another local man, Jackson Pennington, who begs her to leave with him. John discovers their love and the men fight. Emily stays with her husband. Act two is set sixteen years later. John is now a miner, and he and Emily have teenage children. WWI then enters the story. John, his brothers and his son Harry (just shy of eighteen) join up and Harry dies. John returns, narrowly escapes a mining disaster, Emily dies, and John rejoins the ranks of hired men to re-begin his life on the land.

It’s a straightforward tale, and is ably told, by an energetic cast of actor-musicians. Jean Chan’s production design is well realised, and Douglas Rintoul directs with a sure hand. There are some striking stage moments – the trenches and the mining rescue are particularly effective – and the songs range from rousing ensemble numbers through romantic duets and tortured solos in time-honoured musical theatre fashion, but there is nothing here to really seize the imagination or the heart.

Oliver Hembrough and Lauryn Redding take the main roles of John and Emily, and each gives a committed and connected performance, but the pedestrian nature of so many of the songs, both lyrically and musically, means that they can never really take flight. Similarly, Samuel Martin was in good voice and exuded charm as John’s devil-may-care brother Isaac, but he had nowhere to go dramatically, and despite losing his leg in the war, remained the same sporting fellow he was when he first appeared.

Ultimately, The Hired Man is a one-dimensional nostalgic confection. There is no complexity of plot or character; men work, drink, fight and sport, and women exist purely in the domestic sphere. It is a version of England with which we are all familiar, and has been continually repackaged for the past 100 years, from the Hovis ads to Call the Midwife. ‘I’d be happy in a place like this/Now I see what I’ve always missed’, Emily’s daughter sings at the beginning of the second act. The key to this show is whether or not you agree with her.

 

Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw

Photography by Mark Sepple

 


The Hired Man

Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch until 18th May

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Rope | ★★★★ | February 2018
The Game of Love and Chai | ★★★ | April 2018
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert | ★★★ | May 2018
Abi | ★★★★ | September 2018
Abigail’s Party | ★★★½ | September 2018
Once | ★★★★★ | October 2018
Haunting Julia | ★★ | November 2018

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

Once – 5 Stars

Once

Once

Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch

Reviewed – 4th October 2018

★★★★★

“a phenomenal production”

 

In Dublin, a man is about to leave his guitar behind for good. But a Czech woman needs her hoover fixed, and she plans to pay him in music. So begins a musical partnership, that over the course of a week, will change both their lives. Based on the acclaimed film by John Carney, ‘Once’ is a quietly beautiful story of music, love and loss. This is the first ever regional production of ‘Once’ and what a production it is. It started life at the New Wolsey Theatre, and now opens at Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch to a standing ovation.

The actor-musician cast are supremely talented, vocally superb, genuine and often very funny in their performances, alternating between instruments with complete ease. Daniel Healy and Emma Lucia play the central couple. Lucia is wonderful, apparently unphaseable, lively and immediately likeable, the heart and soul of this story. Healy is equally fantastic. Lost and hurt, he sings and plays with an urgency of emotion that is both beautiful and heartbreaking to watch. Their relationship is tangible onstage, the words left unsaid and the complications that surround loving someone. Sean Kingsley as Billy, is a lively comic addition to the production, incongruous and bold. In fact, there isn’t a weak link across the cast.

Libby Watson’s accomplished set creates a familiar pub backdrop, walls heavy with frames, with a roof that lifts to reveal a star studded night sky high above the world. Under Peter Rowe’s direction, the actors remain onstage almost constantly, and a fantastically warm sense of ensemble is created.

Enda Walsh’s book is playful and simple, coupled with music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. Swelling folk tunes are followed by beautiful moments of ensemble acapella. This is a phenomenal production, touching and funny and deeply human, delivered by superb performances across the board.

 

Reviewed by Amelia Brown

Photography by Mike Kwasniak

 


Once

Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch until 20th October

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Rope | ★★★★ | February 2018
The Game of Love and Chai | ★★★ | April 2018
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert | ★★★ | May 2018
Abi | ★★★★ | September 2018
Abigail’s Party | ★★★½ | September 2018

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com