by Michael Morpurgo adapted by Daniel Buckroyd.
New Perspectives Theatre Company with Scamp Theatre Tour to 4 December 2010.
Runs 1hr 5min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 23 October at Watford Palace Theatre.
A version of pastoral that’s truly humane.
Here’s a matter of little and large. War Horse, Michael Morpugo’s story of young farm-worker Albert enlisting in World War I to stay with his favourite horse Joey, is a massive success in all ways – a long-runner, now filling the New London theatre’s sizeable stage, with Joey himself a huge presence, manipulated by several puppeteers.
A generation on, and things have quietened down a lot. Farm Boy looks back to the young days of Albert’s son from a modern perspective. By now he’s become a granddad. His grandson visits the farm before setting-out for Australia, then university. His widened world contrasts the old man on his farm. But the advantages aren’t one-sided; the pull of the land exerts its influence on the younger man.
As a theatre piece, Daniel Buckroyd’s adaptation is the opposite end from War Horse, with just two characters, and the horse replaced centre stage by an old Fordson tractor which, despite apparently jerking and sputtering into life at the end, doesn’t actually move. The piece is a lot shorter than War Horse too. These limitations mean a lot of its material is closer to storytelling than drama.
Which is unlikely to worry many of the 7+ audience, who can doubtless take a good story. John Walters’ Grandpa looks and sounds the essence of someone who’s spent his life with the soil of south west England, having a rooted certainty of manner, contrasting Matt Powell as the younger man for whom this life is part of something wider, and one in which he is far less experienced.
Walters never lets his character show a moment’s doubt about his life – the main moment of emotion comes when he admits his illiteracy and asks for help. It leads to a bet – as in War Horse a good wager is second nature to men who plough the earth. And so to the final story, of the competitive bet that pitted man and horsepower against machine, and brought the then-new tractor to the farm. Warm-hearted, well-acted, valuing tradition while acknowledging change, script and production ensure maximum value from the minimal means.
Grandson: Matt Powell.
Grandpa: John Walters.
Director: Daniel Buckroyd.
Lighting: Mark Dymock.
Composer: Matt Marks.