In my experience the Union Theatre has often worked with a cast of thousands in a small space and tonight was no exception for Melvyn Bragg’s The Hired Man, writes Susan Hallissey…
The opening number, Song of the Hired Men, was sung with gusto and the choreography energetic. In fact, throughout this whole piece Charlotte Tooth’s choreography was splendid.
The Hired Man follows the life of John Tallentire (Ifan Gwilym-Jones) and his wife Emily (Rebecca Gilliland) and the ups and downs of love, life and trying to earn a living in Cumbria at the beginning of the twentieth century.
The first act is occasionally melodramatic, however, the pace is maintained and the large ensemble cast keep you busy.
As John continues to work the land, one brother, Seth (Johnathan Carlton), works the mines, and another, the lively and cheeky Isaac (Sam Peggs), tries to avoid work as much as possible by gambling and fox hunting.
Persuading John to join him one night the love triangle between John, Emily and Jackson Pennington (Luke Kelly) begins when Jackson makes his move on Emily.
The second act bounces into action in 1914 with the same force and energy we had become used to.
The Tallentires are back with children, May (Kara Taylor Alberts) and the cute Harry (Jack McNeill). We are introduced to the unions and the struggle for workers’ rights in the mines with the rousing The Union Song/Men of Stone led by Seth.
The heartrending rendition of The Farewell Song, where the choreography and singing bought a tear even to my sceptical eye, was so poignant – not over egged, just honest and true.
I found the second act earthy and emotional, and I’m grateful that I didn’t let the melodrama put me off a great night.
There is a twist at the end which I refuse to reveal.
A passionate performance from all the cast – well done for not knocking one another out in the bigger dance scenes!
The band, as per usual, deserve a big hand, as do Howard Goodall for the music and lyrics, and Sasha Regan for an excellent production.
The Hired Man is on at the Union Theatre until August 12th
7.30pm Tuesday to Saturday, weekend matinees at 2.30pm.
0207 261 9876