Based on the novel by Melvyn Bragg and brought to vibrant life by Howard Goodall as an award-winning musical, The Hired Man has superb provenance. Add in Tim Ford’s inspired directing, Angharad Sanders’ musical direction and John Brooking’s superb designs and you have a sure-fire hit on your hands.
Billed as the Garrick’s first community musical, it’s the result of the theatre’s artistic director Tim Ford taking a cast of local people and making them into a theatrical ensemble which on the first night of this complex production operated as seamlessly as if they had been working together all their lives.
John Brooking’s set is a masterpiece, the lighting superb, the onstage band’s sound totally professional.
The show itself ranges from solo performances through to huge ensemble set-pieces with dozens of players that merge seamlessly to create a vivid patchwork of the hard lives Northumberland agricultural workers endured in the early years of the twentieth century and whose only other economic options were domestic service, the coal mines, and then to top it all, they had the horrors of the Great War that was supposed to end all wars.
But despite this tightly-packed historical background it is the people themselves who stand out in vivid characterisations which in turn make us laugh, command our sympathy, and secretly make us empathise with people who so closely resemble ourselves.
It’s a rich mix of human drama told through action, song and dance in a production whose high-impact complexity rivals many famous top-flight shows I could name with scenes ranging from poignant solos to huge open-air set pieces, and even a mining disaster graphically played out. In short, it’s the sheer quality of every detail which impresses.
But most of all it’s the players of all ages who impress the most. This complex show is no amateur effort – it’s high class stuff with superb production values throughout.
With such a large cast it’s impossible to mention every great performance but special mention must go to Matt Bond as the hired hand John himself, Megan Daniels (who has a truly marvellous voice) as his wife Emily, and Hattie Rumsey and Adam Pritchard as their children May and Harry. The Hired Man is nothing short of a triumph. Don’t miss it.
The Hired Man runs at the Garrick until Saturday (August 6). For tickets phone the box office on 01543 412121 or visit www.lichfieldgarrick.com.