The New Wolsey Theatre has co-produced this excellent adaptation of Once with the Queen’s Theatre in Hornchurch, as it did for the play Ladykillers last autumn and is enjoying its regional premiere.
The audience is treated to a lively, foot stomping offering before Once even starts, setting the tone for the performance. Actors/musicians play a total of 10-12 instruments, including the traditional fiddle and five guitars which create a resounding quality.
Enda Walsh’s adaptation takes us on a whirlwind five-day adventure which inspires our protagonist to record his songs and follow his dream, abandoning his initial comment of, “there’s no point.”
The choreography and vocal strengths of the cast are first rate, most notably when our youthful Czech heroine sings from her heart at the piano and when three of the female actors writhe and sing “Satisfy Me.”
The production is peppered with humour, particularly in the form of half- Spanish Billy (Sean Kingsley) whose back cannot withstand his attempt at the flamenco.
Our musician protagonist is played by Daniel Healy who has co-written songs with Ronan Keating and displays his vocal talents to the fore. His first agonising rendition of “Leave” attracts the young Czech girl, played by the supremely accomplished Emma Lucia. Her persistence and enthusiasm act as a catalyst which in the end motivates the entire company.
There is a sense of doom for the two main characters, however, as they have other love interests which complicate the possibility of their relationship. She cannot tell him that she loves him, perhaps for this reason.
I have never witnessed a standing ovation at the New Wolsey Theatre before. The sell-out audience were on their feet without hesitation. I am told that every performance has brought on the same response.
The authenticity of the set design is to be praised. The location is mostly the backdrop of a Dublin bar which is crammed full of pictures, inspired by a two-day visit to the city and 20 bars.
A wonderfully touching and amusing evening’s entertainment. I recommend it wholeheartedly to you.
Once is at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich until 22 September. For more information and tickets:www.wolseytheatre.co.uk/once.