Once (Ashcroft Playhouse)

Adapted by Enda Walsh from the successful sleeper hit film, Once returns to London as part of a new UK tour. It still retains a sense of magic, whimsy and Irish blarney, but has now lost the working bar for audiences in the show preamble and interval.

Guy (a delicate Daniel Healy) and Girl (a strident Emma Lucia) are both struggling musicians. He’s working in his father’s repair shop, she lives with her family and flatmates (all Czech immigrants). They meet and connect through music, and Girl begins to have the effect of a fairy godmother on Guy’s ambitions.

This is a charming musical, performed with joy, love and conviction by the actor-musician cast. It may lose something by not having the songs sung by the actors who wrote them and featured in the 2007 film (Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova), but this cast is worth your time. Dan Bottomley’s comic bruiser Billy and Peter Peverley understated Da are especially effective.

Girl and Guy in Once
Girl and Guy in Once

I’d personally crop the scene where Girl’s home is filled with Czech speakers, their language somewhat clumsily surtitled to give the illusion they are not speaking English (fun in one particular scene, later, but a bit unnecessary). I felt the pace dragged a bit here.

It’s a small minus point in an otherwise lovely and thoughtful piece of small-scale musical, crafted to bring out both the basic storyline and the feelings those with broken hearts can bring to the fore. Guy and Girl may be “stopped” in life but not in song

Once continues at the Ashcroft Playhouse at Fairfield Halls, Croydon, until Saturday then tours. The show is directed by Peter Rowe, designed by Libby Watson, choreographed by Francesca Jaynes; the music is supervised by Ben Goddard.

Note I saw a performance of this show on the final day of previews.

LouReviews paid for a ticket to see Once.