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Once – Phoenix Theatre, London

Writer: Enda Walsh

Music and lyrics: Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová

Director: John Carney

Reviewer : Paul Ackroyd

 

Take a multi-award-winning musical and add a pop music superstar for a limited run at a London theatre and you are unlikely have many worries about its box office success. Unlike many of the audience though, this reviewer entered the auditorium with less knowledge of modern pop music: although who hasn’t heard Ronan Keating’ s rendition of the theme tune of the film Notting Hill.

The stage is set up as a realistic interior of a Dublin pub onto which the audience is invited before the show and during the interval. Before the play commences the ensemble join the public with their instruments and begin playing lively Irish jigs. The interior of the pub then becomes the setting for the numerous small scenes, with the necessary furniture being moved around by the cast and with effective lighting designed by Natasha Katz.

The music, and there is plenty of it, is played by the cast on a variety of instruments. They all remain onstage for the entire play sitting, when they were not required to play supporting characters, on chairs to the side of the pub observing. Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová’s music is pleasing and melodic, although it is perhaps too consciously trying to be melancholic and more variety would have been welcome.

The problem with the piece, however, is with the script. The plot is threadbare, the dialogue unimaginative and the characterisation weak.

This is really a two-hander with almost all the plot revolving around Guy (Ronan Keating) and the Girl (Jill Winternitz ). Keating, in his West End début, spends most of his time singing and playing guitar which, not surprisingly, he does with great accomplishment. It is a pity that the script does not allow him more scope, for when he is allowed to put down the guitar and start speaking he demonstrates an aptitude for acting, with a comfortable stage presence and naturalistic delivery. Winternitz does her best with the part of the Girl but never manages to make her a believable character. It is never clear why she is not allowed a name although heryoung daughter is delightfully played by Pacha Busby.

For fans of Ronan Keating this is undoubtedly a treat. For anyone wanting a good night at the theatre there is better fare available.

Runsuntil 21st of March| PhotoBrinkhoff Mögenburg

 

Writer: Enda Walsh Music and lyrics: Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová Director: John Carney Reviewer : Paul Ackroyd   Take a multi-award-winning musical and add a pop music superstar for a limited run at a London theatre and you are unlikely have many worries about its box office success. Unlike many of the audience though, this reviewer entered the auditorium with less knowledge of modern pop music: although who hasn't heard Ronan Keating’ s rendition of the theme tune of the film Notting Hill. The stage is set up as a realistic interior of a Dublin pub onto which the…

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