Music/Lyrics: Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová
Lyrics: Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová
Book: Enda Walsh
Director: Peter Rowe
Reviewer: Liz Stagg
Based on the 2007 film of the same name, Once is currently being performed at The Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch – the first professional production outside of London. Telling the story of a chance meeting of two music lovers whose worlds and cultures collide. A broken-hearted Irish ‘Guy’ meets a Czech ‘Girl’ who reopens his eyes and heart following a painful break-up. Set in Dublin, the pairs’ meeting sets their lives on new paths, sharing fantastic music and comedy along the way.
The theatre opens its doors to the musicians playing high energy Irish folk music on the stage, a fantastic way to set the scene. The performers are awaiting the audience, playing and dancing with such stamina so as to transport the viewer to Dublin. The set is predominantly that of an Irish pub which is adapted and manoeuvred in a delicate and seamless way, woven into the action so that it can be difficult to see that it has happened. The changes create such differing sets as a music shop, apartment and the city itself. The creative team behind this production, have worked hard to convince the audience of their place in Dublin, be it recreating the feel of a lively local tavern, or the subtleties of light changes from subdued apartment to bright and blazing repair shop.
Daniel Healy – who was Ronan Keating’s understudy in the West End production plays Guy with a completely believable performance. While Girl is played passionately by the brilliantly cast Emma Lucia. The interactions between these two performers is tense and authentic with a slow burn development. Both actors sing with such raw emotion and passion that it is easy to become lost in their story.
As an ensemble piece, the production is tight and excellent performances given from the whole company. Sean Kingsley’s stand out role as music shop owner Billy, whose comic timing and questionable Spanish, makes for a light-hearted counterpoint to the main story thread. Kingsley leads an acapella song in the second half that would be at home on any West End stage. Though the music in general is excellent, this is a particularly beautiful and memorising piece that manages to subdue the audience into a hush of anticipation.
The musical performances are of a very high calibre, and would justify the price of ticket if they were presented alone as a concert. There is a wonderful unspoken language between the musicians, which creates a sense not only of musical talent, but the friendship between them. They enjoy playing together, and so the audience enjoys listening even more.
Once is an emotional and entertaining production of a “classic love story” that is embodied with some beautiful folk music, which is played and performed by the sensational cast to the highest quality. This is a regional production to be proud of.
Runs until 20thOctober 2018 | Image: Mike Kwasniak