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National Youth Music Theatre at two London venues

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

NATIONAL Youth Music Theatre is presenting an exciting season of work for summer 2014, including a new commission to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War.

The company of over 150 actors, musicians, creative and backstage teams aged between 11 and 23 will stage The Ragged Child at the Rose Theatre, Kingston (July 23 to July 27), The Hired Man at the St. James Theatre, London (August 13 to August 16) and Brass at the City Varieties Music Hall, Leeds (August 20 to August 23).

National Youth Music Theatre returns to the Rose Theatre, Kingston as part of the International Youth Arts Festival with The Ragged Child – Jeremy James Taylor OBE and Frank Whately’s production, which won the coveted Edinburgh Fringe Festival Award in 1987.

A stark and moving account of child deprivation in London in the 1850s, The Ragged Child follows the plight of the poor and destitute, mirrored in the tragic lives of Joe Cooper and his sister Annie.

We see Lord Shaftesbury fighting for the education of the ignorant and illiterate poor in the House of Lords, and, from an inauspicious beginning, the ‘Ragged Schools’ are founded with Lord Shaftesbury as President, but it is too late for Joe and Annie.

With music by David Nield, The Ragged Child is directed by Jeremy James Taylor OBE and has musical supervision by John Perason, musical direction by Nicholas Chave and choreography by Matthew Hawksworth.

Based on Melvyn Bragg’s stirring novel of Cumbrian rural and industrial working life, set in the first quarter of the twentieth century, The Hired Man tells the story of one family’s – Bragg’s grandparents’ – journey from land labourers to colliers and back to the land.

Featuring a cast of over 30, The Hired Man is set against the background of working class ritual – whippet racing, hiring fairs, hunting, drinking bouts and union meetings. The musical brings alive the cavalcade of British history which swept us into a new century and a war to end all wars.

Howard Goodall’s superb score is strong in the British choral tradition – a marvellous succession of chorales, operatic duets and vigorous foot-stomping rhythms.

The Hired Man is directed by Nikolai Foster, with musical direction by Sarah Travis, choreography by Nick Winston, design by Matthew Wright, lighting by Ben Cracknell and sound by Tom Marshall.