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Harvest review at Royal Court London

Richard Bean’s new play celebrates several generations of a Yorkshire farm family in their kitchen-sink-equipped kitchen. Frequently witty, always warm and definitely overlong, the piece plays at times like a hommage to the Royal Court’s glory days of 50 years ago, when such a setting and characters were a revolution and revelation. Today, however, one is likely to search in vain for a point to the play beyond the milieu itself.

Beginning just before the First World War, and with scenes set roughly 20 years apart, the play watches as two wars, a love triangle, feuds with the local squire, the institution of scientific pig raising and the passing of the torch from one generation to another prove that, despite surface changes, much in the spirit and character of the country folk remains constant. Whether three hours are really needed to say that is questionable, and the play could easily have dropped a generation from either end of the story, to its advantage.

With characters written more as symbols of solid British virtues, the cast must work to invest them with individuality and reality. As the young man who goes off to war at 19, loses his legs, and then lives through the rest of the century as paterfamilias, Matthew Dunster is the voice for much of the play’s wry humour. Jochum Ten Haaf as a forties German prisoner of war who stays on to join the family, Dickon Tyrrell as the fabulist and amorous squire, and Adrian Hood as a comically dedicated pigman make the most of their scenes.

But, despite fine and occasionally touching performances, Jane Hazlegrove and Sian Brooke remain one-dimensional and almost interchangeable as two generations of women as backbone of the nation.

Production Information

Royal Court, London, September 2-October 1

Author
Richard Bean
Director
Wilson Milam
Producer
Royal Court Theatre
Cast includes
Matthew Dunster, Jane Hazlegrove, Sian Brooke, Dickon Tyrrell, Jochum Ten Haaf, Adrian Hood
Running time
3hrs
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