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Dai jeffries of R2 (Rock n Reel)

reviews The Navvy's Wife by The Navvy's Wife Cast

Mick Ryan has the gift for writing songs that feel traditional even when expounding modern ideas. He's used that skill to produce a number of musical shows, folk operas if you will, performed by his company, Fieldwork Productions. The Navvy's Wife, which tours festivals this summer, is, as far as I know, the first to be committed to record (note from Doug Bailey – no all of them have been). The present cast consists of Ryan himself, Jackie Oates, Roger Watson, Judy Dunlop, Paul Downes and Heather Bradford, and this show, telling the story of the navvies who built the canals and railways from the viewpoint of their womenfolk, was originally commissioned by Chester Folk Festival.

ReviewerReview DateSo much for history. Having not seen the show, I'm unable to say if any linking narrative has been cut yet it doesn't matter. Mick's songs and poetry are augmented by contemporary testimonies and the story flows easily, from the introductory ‘Men From Limerick’ through stories of mothers who saw their sons leave for a supposedly better life, the girls they left behind, the long?suffering wives and the 'Women Not Their Wives' the men took up with on their travels.

There is danger and tragedy but also comedy. 'They All Hate' and 'The Eyes Have It' tell of the antipathy between the Scots and the Irish and the hatred of the English navvies for everyone. It's a harsh story dressed in black humour.

The Navvy's Wife is an excellent double?CD at a bargain price. Hear the record and you'll want to see the show.