Recent Theatre Trips #1: Once

For those of you who don’t know, I study English and Drama at university, and, consequently, am a bit of a theatre geek. So I was very lucky and excited to be seeing not one, but three shows in London over the Christmas holidays. I had originally planned to review all three shows in one post, but once I started writing, I found I couldn’t stop! 700 words later, I decided this post should probably just be about the first musical I saw – Once – and make theatre reviewing into a series. Stay tuned for other blog posts in the same vein over the next few days!

I absolutely adore the movie this musical was adapted from. I discovered it a few years ago while I was still at school. I remember my parents renting it from Lovefilm and I watched the first five minutes, then decided I had better things to do. Then, maybe a year or so later, my friend Harriet was raving about the film. Being a typical teenager, I decided hers was a more reliable opinion than my parents’, so I watched it. And oh what a movie. Starring Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, who plays a young czech woman, ‘Girl’ (and skilled pianist), who has moved to Ireland in search of a ‘better’ life. She meets Glen Hansard’s character, ‘Guy’, who is a struggling Irish guitarist and the movie follows the development of their relationship. The main thing that makes this movie stand out though, is the music. Falling Slowly didn’t win an Academy Award for nothing. Written by the actors themselves (who are both artists in their own right), it is interweaved through the film, not in a musical theatre style but to accompany the story. It is truly beautiful. So, when I heard a musical adaptation was coming to Broadway in 2011 you can imagine how excited I was. When my dad text me asking if I would like to go and see it as a ‘family christmas outing’ during the holidays, I replied HELL YEAH (Well, I probably wrote something slightly more parent-appropriate). Anyway, 27th December rolled around and so off we trotted to the Phoenix Theatre on Charing Cross Road, my friend Harriet in tow as we ended up having an extra ticket.

I was a little apprehensive that the musical adaptation wouldn’t live up to the movie’s high standards, but it did not disappoint. The acting, singing and playing was superb. What I really loved about the show is that they have expanded the script from the original screenplay. In the movie, I found Girl was not as explored as deeply as Guy, and consequently felt like I didn’t know Irglova’s character as well as Hansard’s. In the musical, though, the character balance is much more even and Girl’s personality shines through. Zrinka Cvitešić did an excellent job of making the character funny and playful.

The music was, of course, amazing, and their performances matched this. Most of the songs were from the film but there were a few new ones too. Particularly memorable numbers were Say It To Me Now, If You Want Me and of course, the iconic Falling Slowly and When Your Mind’s Made Up.

The staging was fantastic. It was set in a bar but it served as multiple settings: an office, a recording studio and a hoover workshop, among others, with the careful positioning of different props! The best thing about the stage, in my opinion, was the use of mirrors lining the back walls. They allowed you to see the actors from multiple angles at all times so you could see how they were playing their instruments. And the instruments. Wow. This is the only show I can remember seeing where the actors are also the orchestra. It was innovative and really made you appreciate their performance skills.

Stage with the ‘orchestra’ and mirrors in background

If all that doesn’t convince you to see it, the stage turns into a real bar in the interval. Yes, you can stand on a West End stage without having hundreds of faces staring at you expectantly. That was a winner for me.

Tickets range from £19.50 to £95 and are available online here, so this show is really accessible for students too, which is fab! If you want to watch the movie before seeing the show, it’s available on Netflix.


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