5-30 Aug (not 17) 1145 (1245) @ Assembly, George Street
By Danielle Farrow
At one point in Farm Boy there is a mention made of someone no longer ‘reading words’, but actually ‘reading the story’. Change ‘reading’ to ‘telling’ and you have a shift that applies to this production: the performance takes a while to warm up, particularly in the case of the young man who has to draw the audience into the tale.
Michael Morpurgo’s Farm Boy is the sequel to War Horse and includes some reference to the War Horse’s adventures. This production is a strongly narrative piece, a young man telling of his time with his Grandfather, learning about farming, and his grandfather’s gift of story to him. The past is lovingly evoked and, once the performances really kick in, entertainingly and movingly brought to life.
The stage is dominated by a tractor, whose history we learn in a moving – and possibly morally ambiguous – tale, and lighting helps it to become set for other stories. Some devices, such as staring out at things seen round the farm, do not work very naturally, but for the most part the restricted space is filled fairly well, with different levels used, and the characters introduced are lively and believable.
John Walters is particularly impressive as Grandfather, real and warm, and Matt Powell as the grandson has a certain engaging straight-forward quality, though he actually comes more into his own when playing other characters.
Farm Boy is very touching in places, often amusing, and interesting in content. Please note, though, that it is PG with age 7+ recommended – one member of the audience was far too young and showed it, which may have affected the actors and the playing time of the show, which did over-run.