Directed by Wilson Milam, this is an ambitious epic spreading over 90 years from 1914, yet it has touching intimacy and humane warmth as well, tracing the lives of four overlapping generations of smallholders in this one house - a beautifully spartan set by Dick Bird with rough whitewashed walls, skeletal beams and a brick yard glimpsed through the window. Harvest is simultaneously a tender romance, tracing a web of love triangles, and a play about work too which charts a traditional yet changing industry - one of this writer's favourite genres. Here the Harrisons fend off the local squire and struggle to survive crippling government demands during both world wars, European directives and supermarket demands.
The final Act, where the phenomenally ancient William and his elderly niece, Siân Brooke's Laura, tackle two young burglars with a shotgun is, perhaps, slightly strained though frightening too. The cast's accelerated ageing isn't 100 per cent convincing either, let down by some iffy wigs. But almost all the acting is exquisitely observed and natural - bringing to mind Peter Gill's wonderful Royal Court rural play, The York Realist. Milam's directing is also brilliantly assured when Bean pushes these lives in unexpected directions and tilts boldly into black humour. Dunster's William, a great character, is terrifically resilient and witty, countering his dangerously volatile brother, Gareth Farr's Albert. Sharon Bower, Jane Hazlegrove and Brooke are effortlessly excellent, portraying tough and vivacious women, and Adrian Hood (pictured) is pricelessly funny as Titch, a thunderously insensitive yet touchy ogre of a pigman. Strongly recommended.
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