Last night, I went to see Once – the musical based on the 2007 film starring (and with songs by) Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. Having been initially reluctant when I first heard that this bittersweet love story was being made into a stage musical, I had resisted going to see it – but then my friend waved some free tickets in front of my face and I couldn’t resist! (I am a northerner, after all…)
And I’m glad I went. The musical is pretty faithful to the original film, telling the story of Guy and Girl – a broken-hearted Dublin busker, and a young Czech woman who hears something in his music – but with the addition of some “zany” characters, like the music shop owner and Girl’s flatmates, who were included presumably to add some laughs to what could be quite a morose night at the theatre – but funny as their antics were, I don’t they were really needed, and they seemed to just pad out what could have been a more tightly woven tale.
This is the most stripped back musical I have ever seen, and really captures the essence of the original film – which was ever so effective in its simplicity. (See the Wikipedia page for more details about the budget and how they shot it!) There is one set – a multi-mirrored bar – and all the actors remain on stage throughout the performance, staying at the side when they’re not part of the action. And the actors don’t just act and sing – they play all the instruments too.
When sung on stage, the beautiful melodies and songs from the film were just as effective as in the film, and they had the power to raise the hair on the back of my neck. When the pre-show folk songs – sung by the cast on stage as the audience is seated – fade away to let Guy start the show by singing the heartrending “Leave”, it gave me goosebumps. I wasn’t sure anything would affect me so deeply as the Glen Hansard’s guttural cry of heartbreak from that song – but Arthur Darvill gives a similarly affecting performance. Falling Slowly – the song that won an Oscar – has the power to really transport you elsewhere with its words of love on the brink, and as soon as the chords started I began to wonder why I had ever taken the song off repeat on my iPod. Why listen to any other love song?
If you get the chance, do go see this show. It’s unlike any other West End musical, and it will stay with you (and be part of your playlist) long after the lights come up.
Oh, and be sure to head on to the stage for a drink in the interval. Best located bar in the West End.
Today’s quote is from Falling Slowly.