The Hired Man
27th April 2016
Hessle Theatre Company
Hull Truck Theatre
Type of Production
Author: Tony Harris
I had never seen this musical prior to my visit to Hull Truck Theatre and at the interval I was a little unsure about it, calling it “different” and “interesting”. By the end of the evening I was absolutely drained although maybe equally unsure, and the show, by Melvyn Bragg and Howard Goodall, probably deserves a second viewing.
The rather dour story, set in Cumbria at the end of the 19th century, certainly stretches the heartstrings and tells of John and Emily Tallentire, newly married and expecting their first child. John is hired as a farm labourer but the marriage is put under strain, not only by John’s struggle to escape from being a hired man, but by the arrival on the scene of Jackson Pennington, with whom Emily has an affair. John eventually leaves farm life to go down the mines with his brothers Seth and Isaac.
The brothers and Jackson sign up to join the forces in World War 1 and they are eventually joined by John and Emily’s second child, Harry. History tells us that many men never returned but John comes home and returns to the mines. An accident at the mine causes John to be rescued by Seth and he returns home to find that a final tragedy has descended on the family.
In this production there were some fine performances, especially from Hannah Wilson who was outstanding as Emily. She has a wonderful stage presence, a fine voice and strong acting skills which she showed off throughout her performance, whether as the centre of the action or whilst on stage in semi darkness when other action was on-going.
Stuart Raywood gave a convincing portrayal of John and some of his scenes with Hannah drew out every possible ounce of emotion, his “Blackrock (What Would You Say to Your Son)” being first class.
These two were well backed up by a strong cast including Neal Edlin as a fine Seth, James Galer (Jackson) and Luke Cardwell as Isaac. I was also impressed by Angelica Hughes as May, John and Emily’s daughter.
I lost parts of the dialogue in some of the noisy ensemble scenes but overall the story was told well. The war scene was exceptional and very moving as was the depiction of the mine via some very clever and imaginative direction from Martin Beaumont. The ensemble singing was very powerful, backed up by a small combo.
The open stage setting with furniture as needed was very effective and the lighting and costumes suited the action well.
This society never fails to deliver and their good audience figures were well deserved.