Book: Enda Walsh
Music &Lyrics: Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova
Director: John Tiffany
Reviewer: Joanna Trainor
“It’s magic,” but not in the usual sense of a musical. There are no jazz hands, big tap numbers or sequined costumes, but the simplicity of Enda Walsh’s s story of two people brought together by their pain and hoovers, makes Once the Musical the most beautiful piece of theatre.
Fresh from his performance in the show on Broadway, Arthur Darvill’s natural charm and intensely likeable quality, makes Guy’s sadness unbearable. Particularly in the first act, little is said between Guy and Girl, but Darvill’s use of pause and silence, explains their relationship better than any words probably could. It is also worth mentioning Darvill’s Elvis Presley hips, during ‘Broken hearted hoover fixer sucker guy’; a sight that will stay with you well after leaving the theatre.
It is no wonder that Zrinka Cvitesic is nominated for an Olivier for Best Actress in a Musical this year. Her comic timing and bluntness as Girl is perfect. The contrast between her pro-active personality and Darvill’s loveable awkwardness gives them great onstage chemistry.
Bob Crowley’s set is a character all on its own. The stripped back bar, with wooden floors and walls that are covered in mirrors gives the show a laid back, Dublin charm. Seeing yourself in the large mirror on the back, although puts you right in the midst of the action, also makes you feel incredibly helpless. Watching yourself sitting down, while Guy and Girl fail to address their feelings makes the show all the more painful.
Once also utilises this new trend in musical theatre of using actor musicians on stage. Before the show starts, the audience are invited on stage to listen to the cast play a few folk songs, and their love for what they’re doing and the sheer amount of noise they make is overwhelming. The talent that radiates from their performance of ‘Gold,’ before the interval hits you like a wall, and it’s impossible not to tear up when Girl smiles as she walks around the bar. However having the cast with their instruments on stage all the time, occasionally obstructs your view of the action. Trying to look round a large cello to see Darvill’s reaction to Girl’s last song, ruins what should have been the most poignant moment.
Everything you’ve heard about Once is true. It is completely and utterly heartbreaking, so bring an enormous amount of tissues with you, but it’s also ridiculously funny at times. It’s a very strange experience laughing while you’re already in tears, but somehow Once just makes it work. It will be difficult to find a piece of theatre that is quite so moving, with a story that will continue to play on your mind for the foreseeable future.
Booking until July 2015, Arthur Darvill plays the rôle of Guy until 10th May 2014