MusicalNorth East & YorkshireReview

Girl From The North Country – Newcastle Theatre Royal

Reviewer: Anna Ambelez

Writer and Director: Conor McPherson

Music and Lyrics: Bob Dylan

Wow – what a wonderful show. From the first minute to the last, it embraces the stage, the theatre and the audience. Set in a Minnesota Duluth guesthouse in 1934 in the heartland of America, during the depression, on the banks of Lake Superior, we see the past, present and future plague the characters with fear.

The near bankrupt Nick Laine (Colin Connor), whose wife Elizabeth (Frances McNamee) has dementia, owns the rundown guesthouse. Their 20 year old son Gene (Gregor Milne) is a drunk and failed writer; their pregnant black daughter Marianne (Justina Kehinde) abandoned at the guesthouse as a baby was adopted by them guards the father’s identity.

The guests provide a broad band of society, from the failed business man Mr Burke (Neil Stewart), wife (Rebecca Thornhill) and adult son Elias (Ross Carswell) with a mental age of four. There’s widow Mrs Neilson (Nichola MacEvilly) who is having an affair with Laine, an unjustly imprisoned black boxer Joe Scott (Joshua C Jackson), bible salesman, Reverend Marlowe (Owen Lloyd), the widowed cobbler Mr Terry (Teddy Kempner) desperate for company, the drug addict Dr Walker (Chris McHallem), plus Gene’s estranged love of his life Katherine Draper (Eve Norris). While each scene reveals the characters, the problems they face and their relationships with each other, it requires concentration to keep up; thankfully it is made easier by being so engrossing and well-staged  by director McPherson.

A unique interpretation, being a strong, tight production throughout; the convincing cast contribute continually to the action, their singing is strong, the musical direction (Andrew Corcoran) and arrangements (Simon Hale) are excellent, lighting (Mark Henderson) superbly atmospheric, dance routines and movement (Lucy Hind) hypnotic, beautifully set off by the stage and costume design (Rae Smith) and live music. The whole stage often has up to 15 cast moving and setting up scenery to change location, while a number is being sang. It is rare for this not to distract but here it adds and enriches the scene, being integral to it.

Dublin born Conor McPherson, writer of The Wear, was approached to consider using Dylan’s music in a theatre show. He enterprisingly created a heart-warming, heart wrenching show about relationships, family, desolation and love, inspired by 19 of the inimitable Bob Dylan’s songs. There are memories of Of Mice and Men, lonely drifters in search of a dream, companionship, as Dylan’s song says ‘may all your wishes come true’, which underlies most of the characters unspoken desires.

This multi award winning West End and Broadway smash hit is on a UK and Ireland tour playing 24 theatres. Whether you are a Dylan or McPherson fan or not, this production cannot fail to impress as it did with the full appreciative Theatre Royal audience. Girl From The North Country is not to be missed.

Runs until Saturday 1st October 2022

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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