A timeless love story once seen, never forgotten
A timeless love story featuring award-winning songs and broken vacuum cleaners, Once condensed the tale of an anonymous guy and girl into an eighty-minute film which showcased the city of Dublin and the musicians it attracts. Garlanded with awards of its own since opening off-Broadway in 2011, the stage adaptation follows The Book of Mormon eastwards to the West End in 2013, one of several new theatre shows in London for a new year.
The Irish musician, played in the film by Glen Hansard (formerly of the band The Frames and now a successful solo artist), spends his days busking in Dublin’s streets warding off vagrants looking to steal his earnings. A chance meeting with a lady from the Czech Republic is the dramatic thrust of the piece, she alone in a strange place and he looking for direction and a break in his music career.
The Girl character, originally played by Markéta Irglová, reveals herself to be a talented pianist who pays regular visits to the local music shop to tinkle the ivories, to the sympathetic ears of any browsers and the patron of the shop. The film is a two-handed musical, and Enda Walsh brings his experience to bear in transferring it to the stage; a lively bar setting allows the audience to share in the drama further, making it a thorough experience where musicians strum and harmonise while the two protagonists carry out the fumblings of friendship.
Emotions run high, but above all the strong songs impress a viewer beyond the moment they are heard. Listen out for When Your Mind’s Made Up and Falling Slowly, and cheer for characters whose names we never know, but whose fates we are bound to care for.
The lead roles of Guy and Girl will be played by Declan Bennett and Zrinka Cvitešić. Declan, who has released albums of his own material, recently starred on Broadway in Rent and American Idiot, and makes an appearance in the forthcoming Coen Brothers film Inside Llewyn Davis. Zrinka has played several roles in Croatian theatre, including in Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Threepenny Opera. Along with several award-winning film roles, she is famous in her homeland for winning Dancing with the Stars in 2010.
Once tickets in London:
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- You don't have to have seen the film to enjoy the play
- You're welcome to pop up from your seat and enjoy a drink from the bar onstage!
At first it’s like we’ve stumbled across a session lock-in. As we take our seats in the dress circle, audience members down in the stalls abandon their seats, and join the impromptu hootenanny that has broken out on stage. It all feels a bit conspiratorial: like we’ve interrupted rehearsal. But when the lights dim, the stage empties until a lone figure is left under the spotlight with his guitar. Slowly the final notes of the Irish ceilidh die away into his opening strum of the first proper number. This isn’t rehearsal at all. This story is just getting started.
Unlike other musicals, there’s no random bursting into song here, just an old-fashioned love of a good tune - and it’s matched by the simple story of boy meets girl. Guy, a down-and-out Dublin busker, is ready to quit music when a chance encounter with Girl, a Czech pianist, rekindles his dream. Connected by their love for music, they reach for something higher, something great. But that’s as far as their story goes. This is not your average fairytale: it’s bittersweet and honest. In the end, it’s about people trying to find a voice.
It’s the music that weaves the biggest spell of the night. Banjo, violin, cello, drums, piano, and guitar - as instruments pass from hand to hand, it’s almost as if the cast is busking each number. You can hear it in the haunting a cappella harmony of Gold’s reprise, and detect it in the soaring melodies of the Oscar-winning number, Falling Slowly. This is not so much a musical, but a love song to music. So captivating, it will have you falling for it at once.
- Lisa P, P Stands For...
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