Howard Goodall’s 1984, award-winning musical The Hired Man was written as a large scale choral work. This evening however, Night Project Theatre’s intimate performance at The Albany Studio had a cast of just twelve performers but was no less powerful and emotive!
Set in Cumbria between 1898 and the early twenties, the show is a timeless tale of coping with difficult life choices and having to deal with change in the most difficult of circumstances and I really believe these themes ring true in today’s world. Kirsteen Stafford (Director) ensured that the intimate performance was gritty, filled with emotion and seamless in its moving from one scene to the next. The staging of many of the scenes was extremely well thought out and the staged was often dressed beautifully with the ensemble cast in freeze frames.
The set and lighting, designed by Chris Lamb, was simply perfect. The set simply portrayed the bleak northern countryside and yet allowed for a variety of locations to be portrayed throughout the fast-moving plot line. The lighting design really enhanced the production; being functional to allow multiple locations at once whilst also being extremely atmospheric.
In a cast of just twelve performers, it seems unfair to pick out any individuals, but I am afraid I am going to have to! Ian Page (John) and Jenne Rhys-Williams (Emily) showed real emotion in dealing with the obstacles life presented to their characters. I thought both actors really came into their own in Act 2 when they portrayed an older couple who had seen really hardship and tragedy. There were some tender moments in their numerous duets which demonstrated excellent vocal ability.
There were lovely performances from Anya McCutcheon Wells (May) and Will Page (Harry). They opened Act 2 with some good comic timing both in acting and song. Mark Shaun-Walsh (Jackson) demonstrated excellent vocal skills and a passionate performance in his quest to persuade Emily to leave John. Gavin Whichello (Seth) and Thom Stafford (Isaac) were expressive in their portrayal of John’s brothers, both showing very different characters within the family and performing with ease and confidence.
The entire cast deserve credit for a real "ensemble" performance – they never left the stage and were almost faultless, with just a couple of opening night slip-ups and lost lines. The diction in Act 1 was not always as good as it could have been, and I lost some of the words but it was much sharper in Act 2 and so I am sure this was just a first night blip!
The atmospheric accompaniment from Musical Director Chris Davis and instrumentalist Maddy Evans was perfect for the intimate setting and the style of the score.
Overall, an atmospheric and memorable performance of a highly acclaimed musical score from the modern era. Night Project Theatre perform The Hired Man at the Albany Studio until Saturday, 5th May.
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