Paul T. Davies reviews the hay wain, presented by Castle Park theatre in the grounds of Castle Park until September 18.

A good piece of theatre should get us to look at things anew, to question your entrenched views. John Constable’s painting, The Hay Wain, is a romantic view of rural life, a wonderful piece of art that elevated landscape painting.

Thomas R Edward’s passionate and powerful play and production tears up the chocolate box romantism of the painting, and focuses on the workers, the “blobs in the background” that are taken for granted.

Agricultural life was tough two hundred years ago, their poverty hidden away in Constable’s paintings. In a week when taxing the low paid is again an issue, the play could not be more relevant.

The play focuses on the Salter family, particularly younger son Emil, bullied by his family and placed low down in society, whose life is transformed when he meets revolutionary Jack.

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Ben Jacobson gives an excellent performance as Emil, finding his voice, struggling with being an outsider of his own family, until he finds his tribe and fights for worker’s rights.

Gazette: The Hay Wain Picture: SEANA HUGHESThe Hay Wain Picture: SEANA HUGHES

As Jack, Tom Foster has an excellent accent and leads us through the story well, and Charlotte Luxford, Kate Millner and Joseph Rawlings are all equally excellent as Emil’s sister, mother and brother respectively, a family unit struggling to stay together after war, but the bond of love stays strong as we reach the play’s climax. Thomas R. Edwards not only writes the script, but composes and performs the superb music, the songs sounding authentically good.

It creates a gripping night in the park, with Tom Lightbody’s excellent lighting enhancing the castle wall and the play superbly.

And I need to shout from the rooftops how wonderful it is that a brand-new play is performed in such a great venue, and a play that will make you look at these workers in that painting more closely.

  • Tickets: Castle Park Theatre: The Hay Wain * at Colchester Arts Centre