From the moment the performance started to the last beat of the show, I – and the entire audience – was completely captivated in this mesmerisingly beautiful musical – The girl from the north country.
The script, written by Irish playwright Conor McPherson, is simply ingenious – a brilliantly crafted story unfolds of life in 1930s Duluth, Minnesota, where a group of travellers meet at a guest house. Filled (largely) with optimism and hope, the characters shine a spotlight on life in America against a backdrop of the big crash, the Ku Klux Khan, deep poverty, false hope and the realism of what life would have been like for a black unmarried pregnant girl.
With a focus on family and – often misplaced – love, the multi-stranded musical tells of a father trying to marry his black adopted daughter Marianne off to provide for her and her unborn baby; of a couple trying to protect their big, clumsy and violent son (reminiscent of Lennie in John Steinbeck’s controversial ‘Of mice and men’ novella); of an escaped prisoner, convicted by the Ku Klux Khan; and more.
The characterisation is simply superb throughout and, for me, the standout performance was by Elizabeth, the seemingly deranged wife of Nick Laine. Bob Dylan’s songs intricately frame the storyline, as if they had been written especially for this. Captivating and haunting, the singing enhanced this stellar performance. The highlight for me was the beautifully moving and poignant rendition of ‘I want you’, sung by characters Gene Laine and Kate Draper. With the audience hooked from the off, brilliant staging and sensational musicality, this is a deeply profound, insanely brilliant musical!
Reviewed by Cathy Parnham