The Hired Man is a musical with music and lyrics by Howard Goodall and book by Melvyn Bragg, directed by Andrew Keates. It follows the life of John Tallentire, a farm labourer and later coal miner, and his family between 1898 and 1921.
I found the story very captivating, complete with three dimensional characters. Musically I think it’s a masterpiece. I love Goodall’s music anyway and this is the 4th production of one of his shows that I’ve seen this year, but it completely blew me away. He writes such wonderful melodies that haunt you for days and days.
The musical is brought to life by a top-notch cast, who play their respective parts with so much passion and have such great, strong voices. There simply is no weak link in this cast.
Joe Maxwell is pretty much perfect as John Tallentire. Blackrock (What Would You Say To Your Son?) was one of the highlights for me and he had wonderful chemistry with Catherine Mort (Emily Tallentire). Her singing wasn’t flawless, but she has such a sweet voice and her last duet with Joe (No Choir of Angels) was incredible, as was I Cannot Be Like You. Her last scene was very moving.
Abigail Matthews and Ben McMath play their children May and Harry. Abigail, again, has an outstanding voice (I saw her as the Mistress in Evita and thought that she easily had the best voice on stage that night). I enjoyed her You Never See The Sun very much. Ben was also very good and made me laugh a couple of times.
Martin Neely (Seth Tallentire) was wonderful in the Union Song (Man of Stone) and Farewell Song, as was Sean-Paul Jenkinson (Isaac Tallentire). I especially liked him in the scene when he comes home from the war and brings Emily a message from Jackson.
Ian Daniels plays Jackson Pennington, the son of the farmer John works for and whom she falls in love with. His Hear Your Voice was hauntingly beautiful. Again, great chemistry with Catherine Mort.
I also loved Kimberly Powell’s (Sally) duet Who Will You Marry Then? with Catherine Mort. They’re voices sounded so lovely together.
Mark Fredrick, Garry Mannion, Matthew Gent, Emily Barlow, Matthew McLoughlin, James Parkes, Ruri James, Alistair Baron and Jamie Birkett play various parts in the ensemble and play a significant part in making this piece so special.
The set was very simple, yet effective, mainly some bales of straw and barrels, a cartwheel and a rocking chair, but there was no need for anything more.
I was very disappointed when Gypsy (which should have played at the Landor) fell through, but now I’m almost glad that it did, because otherwise I would have never seen this wonderful piece of musical theatre. It was one of the special evenings that remind me just why I love theatre so much.