I’m a student who loves to go and see musicals, plays, gigs, whatever it is, if it’s on stage, I want to see it. But if you’ve ever been to London’s Broadway, you’ll know that tickets don’t come cheap. So here’s my advice. Travel to London by coach, normally around a fiver from either Canterbury or home in Salisbury and turn up at Leicester Square where all the cut-price ticket booths are, desperate to get rid of their last seats. Pick the cheapest one going. It doesn’t matter what it is or whether you’ve heard of it before. It’s more fun that way.
I gave it a go and here’s my review of Once at The Phoenix Theatre.
Ticket: Under £20
Verdict: Once is definitely not enough.
It’s your average guitar-playing, hoover-fixing Dubliner boy meets eccentric, singing Czech girl, and it’s the best musical I’ve seen in a very long time.
Don’t go expecting the all-singing, all-dancing, glittering scenes of Wicked or Dirty Dancing, this is more of a play performed to music. If you’ve seen the film, you’ll know the storyline is as simple as its title: two strangers meet, make music, become friends, fall in love and then fall back into the normality of their lives, except apart from each other. But the plot really isn’t what matters here. It’s all about the music. And what amazing music it is.
I implore you to listen to the film soundtrack and if you haven’t heard of the Academy Award winning Falling Slowly, written by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová (the stars of the film) what the hell have you been listening to? It’s so beautifully composed that I have it on repeat pretty much all the time. And performed on stage by Declan Bennett and Zrinka Cvitesic, it’s the perfect lullaby.
Before the musical has even begun, the actors are on stage, just playing around with their instruments and their voices while we get settled in our seats. The atmosphere was so relaxed, I was tempted to jump over the balcony, join them and realise my potential as a West End star (if only that wasn’t an insanely dangerous idea). And who doesn’t love a musical where, during the interval, the pub in the set becomes a fully functioning bar where you can get on stage and enjoy a drink. It’s probably the only time I’ll get to appear on Broadway (so that’s definitely going on my CV).
Throughout the play, we see just a handful of actors on stage, swapping in and out of scenes and playing their own musical specialty on one simple set. Over the two hours, all we see is a few chairs, a table and some spotlights for the night sky. There’s no need for over the top props and sets, just beautifully talented actors and their voices in one modern and realistic (almost) fairy tale.
There’s a charming contrast between the Irish and Czech characters which adds plenty of humour as they mock each others accents and mannerisms. And when the actors are laughing at the jokes as much as you, you can tell they’re doing it for more than just a paycheck. They’re enjoying their time on stage, despite performing eight times a week. Bennet and Cvitesic have undeniable chemistry and it’s incredibly heart warming and obvious to see that this tight knit cast are genuinely friends backstage too. It’s a pleasure to watch.
There’s really not much more to say: it’s just simple and you need to see it.
But if you don’t get the chance to go to London and see this masterpiece, then definitely definitely definitely watch the film and listen to the soundtrack. Hours and hours of procrastination right there. You’re welcome.
(Photo by Tom Morris)