Neither silk purse nor sow’s ear, New Theatre’s production of Richard Bean’s HARVEST turns up a few entertaining truffles in this shambling, sprawling family saga.
HARVEST maps a century of struggle for the Harrisons, Yorkshire pig farmers, whose patch of piggery was won from the local squire by a canny ancestor.
The play begins at beginning of the First World War with the current sty councillors, William and Albert, battling it out over which one should sign up for the great adventure.
William wins only to return legless to a farm where the livestock is breeding but his brother is not, placing the hereditary holding of the hog husbandry in jeopardy.
Another world war bestows unexpected blessings when a Luftwaffe pilot is shot down and sent to work on the farm. The German shows a proficiency at swine herding and a propensity for producing a Harrison heir.
Tribulations of trade, tariffs, technology and market forces are all met under the stewardship of the seemingly unsinkable centenarian, William.
Jeremy Waters, as William, so impressive earlier this year in Scenes from an Execution at the Old Fitzroy and Four Places at The Tap, is good, but there are moments when his diction proves slightly challenging for the audience, partly due to the distinctive Yorkshire dialect and accent, but also, perhaps, because he is wheelchair bound for most of the play, which can stress diaphragm and vocal proficiency.
Of the cavalcade of cameos the most memorable is the character Titch, played with exuberant boisterousness by Benjamin Vickers. His big, brash, broad performance brings home the bacon with a crisp, crackling characterisation.
Peter Eyers is very funny as the louche local squire and there’s also solid support from the all too fleeting appearances of veteran thesps, John Keightley and Dave Kirkham.
Bethany Sheehan’s set evokes a concentrated kitchen finely lit by Tony Youlden.
A New Theatre production directed by Louise Fischer, Richard Bean’s HARVEST opened at the New Theatre, 542 King Street, Newtown on Thursday 9th October and is running until Saturday 8th November.