Musical: The Hired Man
Venue: Hull Truck Theatre
Dates: Until Saturday, June 15
Review by: Julia Pattison
Based on the stirring novel by Melvyn Bragg first published in 1969, The Hired Man was premiered in 1984, but didn’t do as well as it deserved due to the West End being in thrall to Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Fortunately, Hull Truck Theatre and Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, in association with Oldham Coliseum Theatre have made this universally appealing musical a reality for us all today in this region, mining a rich seam of relatable narrative and rousing foot stomping rhythms as we followed one Cumbrian working couple’s marriage from the end of the 19th century to beyond the First World War.
The Hired Man revolved round the adjustments that newly married John (Oliver Hembrough) and his spirited wife Emily (Lauryn Redding) had to make to each other and their changing world.
The music and lyrics by the award-winning composer Howard Goodall were delivered magnificently by this tight and talented ensemble cast; just loved Douglas Rintoul’s innovative direction, such as when musical instruments were used as implements (even a pet dog at one stage!), and Jean Chan’s set design, a large revolving circular stage, surrounded by pungent black chippings, stark, and used to excellent effect throughout the show.
We went through a rollercoaster of emotions with the couple; Oliver Hembrough and Lauryn Redding were superb in their roles.
This was ultimately an ensemble production though; one that celebrated the land and everyone who worked on it or under it (the live sound effects used when the men were trapped in the mine sent shivers up the spine).
There was nothing sentimental or trite about the show; you felt these folks’ hard graft and what hardships they were prepared to endure to put bread on the table for their family.
I felt emotionally drained, yet exhilarated having experienced such a moving show.
“The best British Musical in 40 years” is no idle boast.
To book tickets ring Hull Truck Box Office on 01482323638, but hurry, as tickets are going fast!