Folk @ Hampstead Theatre Review

We’re by-products of the heartfelt folk songs and tales of our ancestors, narratives passed down through the generations that resonate and pass through our veins, our every breath, our every action. Every culture bringing with it it’s own rich and diverse cannon of songs passed down through the ages, details having changed from the original source due to mispronunciations, mishearings and context – however still retaining at the core the song’s heart and soul. Delving into the folk songs collected from Somerset between 1896 to 1905 by Cecil Sharp, Principal of then Hampstead Conservatoire of Music, now known as Central School of Speech and Drama, Nell Leyshon brings to light the song composition process from the eyes of two very different perspectives in Folk.

Unaware of her unrivalled gift of singing and composing that she has acquired from her late mother, a very quiet and unassuming Louie Hooper (Mariam Haque) embarks on a journey of reconnection – songs forever tying her to her family, rediscovery – each song on closer inspection a lyrical map of Somerset’s locality and recognition – these personal anecdotes brought into the spotlight by Cecil Sharpe. Two sisters struggling to make ends meet, glove makers Louie and Lucy White (Sasha Frost) work hard to get by. The loss of their mother a heartbreaking reality, Louie attached to their home setting, a soul who seeks comfort in solace, Lucy the fiery, bubbly sibling – a fearless extroverted soul. Local gardener John Henry England (Ben Allen) however without even realising it, helping to instil the songs of Somerset on a national level thanks to his singing of a local folk song ‘Seeds of Love’ organically, overheard by Cecil Sharp (Simon Robson). Louie’s new job role as a maid the precursor to a fascinating discussion/debate had with Cecil about the noting down of songs, ensuring authenticity of each is captured. An unlikely partnership that celebrates the beauty of song and how it has the power to unite and evoke response. The classically trained composer vs the naturally gifted songstress, we’re given the time to really appreciate the process of composition and its end result.

Nell Feyshon writes a heartwarming production thoughtfully connecting the North West of London to Southwest of England, Folk a celebration of the songs originating from England. Allen’s tenacious John Henry England, Frost’s fiery Lucy White, Sharp’s astute Cecil Sharp and Haque’s delicate Louie vibrant reminders of the faces behind songs noted down. Roxana Silbert directs a thought provoking evening connecting us to the past, Rose Revitt’s autumnal, William Morris-esque leafy backdrop an aesthetically striking ode to the countryside. Ayse Tashkiran’s folk dance movement direction anchoring us into the traditional dances of the isle. Folk a pertinent reminder of the resonance of song!

Review written by Lucy Basaba.

Folk is currently showing until Saturday 5th February 2022 at the Hampstead Theatre. To find out more about the production, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop