C(ecil) P(hillip) Taylor Allen Saddler - Essay

Allen Saddler

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

It is a long time, probably not within living memory, since the farming community has had a reasonable representation in dramatic form. Dung slinging straw-in-the-hair folk groups have become representative of country culture. In Taylor's play [To Be a Farmer's Boy] the poetry of everyday speech comes to life with vitality and force; dispelling forever (I hope) the taciturn, crude and graceless yokel of popular legend. The main character, a farmer eager for land, is cantankerous, crafty and ruthless, even within his own family; but displays a love of wild life, relishes the passing of the seasons, plays Bach on the violin and reads avidly. These people are not saints or sinners; not particularly bright or traditionally dim. Their black humour, apparent callousness and capacity for enjoying simple pleasures, their lust for land and pride in their isolation, arises naturally from their environment, and drew grunts of recognition from the audience.

Unfortunately, there are weaknesses in the play, which are entirely to do with the construction. Eleven short scenes, which dodge about in no particular chronological order, and a spare functional set, which, even for touring, lacks any warmth. Another fault is Taylor's method of using one character as a narrator, giving him all the best lines as asides. This fault is not so serious as in Taylor's Not By Love Alone, but still irritating. With the material at his disposal Taylor could have assembled a two-act play of three scenes each, following a logical time span, and it would have been a play of power and strength. I regret the chance thrown away. (p. 24)

Allen Saddler, in a review of "To Be a Farmer's Boy" (© copyright Allen Saddler 1980; reprinted with permission), in Plays and Players, Vol. 27, No. 6, March, 1980, pp. 24-5.