Cider with Rosie/Swan Theatre, Worcester

LAURIE Lee’s celebrated lament for his Cotswold paradise lost has at last found its true voice… thanks to the partnership of Chris Jaeger’s inspired direction and John Kirkpatrick’s evocative soundtrack.

Oh yes. It’s now a case of Cider with Rosie… the musical.

And there’s more. For this Swan Rep production is also transformed by the richness of Jonathan Darby’s portrayal of the author as he takes us on a rural ride through a vanished England now swept away by a tide of roads and urbanisation.

Intensely moving and at times almost unbearably infused with the sense of loss, Jaeger has indeed wandered deep into a pastoral landscape far removed from the well-meant idealism of musical romantics such as Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Darby is a natural storyteller and his skilled narration finds a willing shoulder to the plough in the form of Liz Grand as Lee’s mother, struggling to make ends meet in the aftermath of the First World War.

George Ormerod as the young Loll is superb too, bringing a floppy-haired perfection to the village lad on the cusp of his literary destiny.

Much like the poet William Blake, he is sensitive to hidden beauties as well as the petty cruelties that might avoid the eyes of lesser mortals.

Grand and Darby are also in fine voice as they reprise folk classics such as The Blacksmith, while Kirkpatrick’s English concertina and accordion periodically punctuates the story with snatches of dance tunes and other offerings such as The British Grenadiers.

Melodies such as these once rang out across meadows, along village streets, and echoed from generations of harvest homes before the advent of the electronic age. It is the inclusion of all this music that makes this production so exquisitely delightful.

Cider with Rosie is a joint effort between the Worcester Repertory Company and the University of Worcester. It’s a marriage made in Heaven… and a rural one at that. It runs until Saturday (June 10).

John Phillpott