Farm Boy is the charming tale of a young man
on the verge of adulthood who discovers his grandfather’s painful secret while
working on the family farm. It’s an adaptation of novelist Michael Morpurgo’s sequel to War Horse. It’s an exercise
in creative storytelling. It’s a
director’s challenge and a sound designer’s thrill. It is not, however, a play. In my opinion, in order for a theatrical
event to be considered a play, there must be dialogue, conflict and
resolution. If more than one character
exists, then those characters should directly interact for a majority of the
Farm Boy relies on lengthy periods of
exposition from the unnamed Grandson (Simon
Lees), broken up only by the grunts, nods, and a few defensive phrases by
the Grandfather (Lawrence Pressman). Grandfather is the son of War Horse hero Albert, and he recaps the
basic plot for any in the audience who may have missed Farm Boy’s prequel.
he embodies the Grandfather character beautifully, making him an endearing
presence in the theatre, Lawrence Pressman is such a talent that his acting
range is squelched in this flat, underwhelming role. As the Grandson, Simon Lees is full of energy
and provides much of the narration. But
he, too, seems hindered by an unusual theatrical script.
may be surprised that what worked so well in War Horse didn’t translate into its sequel. But make no mistake about it, the reason War Horse worked is because there were
multiple characters – and even though one of the key figures was a horse, it
was brought to life with artistic puppetry and magnificent grace. Joey the horse’s replacement in Farm Boy, a stealthy presence on stage
and the set pièce de résistance, is an old tractor and, well, there are no puppeteers
that can breathe life into this metal heap.
David Fofi really had his work cut out for him.
Farm Boy is not action-packed
– in fact, the action on stage is limited to the characters sitting down and
standing up. However, a spectacular set
design and elaborate sound cues really do create a wonderful environment inside
the cozy Matrix Theatre.
I think this pastoral tale is better left in Morpurgo’s book, it is a good
story and though it’s not overly dramatic—even Grandfather’s big secret is
given away and resolved too quickly—its one-act brevity will prevent any antsy
theatergoers from sneaking out the back exit.
you’ve read the books, if you’ve seen War
Horse, or if you’re a fan of Lawrence Pressman and you just want an hour of
relaxing entertainment after dinner, Farm
Boy is for you. It runs Thursdays,
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 3 pm through August 26 at the
Matrix Theatre in Los Angeles. There are
also Saturday matinees at 3 pm on August 18 and 25. Tickets may be purchased by calling the
theatre at (800) 838-3006 or online at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/254780.
Photo Credit: David Sprague