Tuesday 25 October 2016



"Sweet jaysus…" Phelim Drew there, saying exactly what we're all thinking. Well, a broken-hearted songsmith, known only as 'Guy', has just dedicated a tune to the entire room, for what is life without love, he ponders. Sweet jaysus is right.

But a funny thing happens when you're watching Once, writer Enda Walsh and director John Tiffany's Tony Award-winning remix of John Carney's low-budget, cinematic diamond that won an Oscar back in 2007 and made superstars out of songwriters Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova.

Yes, it's a little twee, but boy is it charming. You actually care about the characters and what happens to them. A lot of that has to do with its simplicity.

Basically, Guy (a down-on-his-luck northsider, whose girlfriend scarpered to America) meets 'Girl' (a Czech pianist, whose husband never followed her to Ireland) in a pub.

He's awkward, shy, and a little all over the place. She's full of beans. She's also got a broken vacuum cleaner. If he can fix her hoover, she'll help him with his music.

Within five days, the two will have formed the sweetest of partnerships. The spark is there. Alas, it's a case of right girl/guy, wrong place/time.

We may travel from the bank to the recording studio, but we never actually leave that gorgeous, mirrored pub; a naturalistic setting that doubles up as a real bar/rehearsal space during the interval. The actors are the orchestra - this is what separates Once from every other musical in the world.

A masterclass in movement and presentation, Once may have its faults (leading performers Tom Parsons and Megan Riordan's accents are a little sticky) but they are easily outweighed by Hansard and Irglova's exquisite, understated songbook, not to mention the musical talents, humour and chemistry of its ensemble cast.

It's a charismatic offering; funny, sweet and heart-breaking. Lovely stuff altogether.

Running until August 22 HHHHI

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