Noel Coward Theatre, London – until 24 March 2018
Girl from the North Country has transferred to the West End (with glorious irony to the Noel Coward Theatre..it’s the least Cowardy of all plays ever). So I see it for the third time (the second, I booked a ticket of my own on the way home from press night. The fourth will be in March, as I did the same last night…).
A few brief observations.
I had not given enough weight to the important anchoring performance of Ciaran Hinds as Nick, the landlord: a beautifully understated, self-effacing lead.
There is something profoundly moving too in what writer-director Conor McPherson has done with the democratic sharing of limelight and songs, a device sweetly in tune with the play’s broad understanding and compassion for all the characters: the weak, the criminal, the mentally disabled, the desperate.
The brilliance of Simon Hale’s score of arrangements is more remarkable every time you hear it, and the clever thing is that taking Dylan’s music out of his lifetime and into America’s harshest Depression years smooths away any 1960s self-indulgence and shallowness of young love, and takes the lyrics deeper than ever. The 1978 “Is your love in vain?”, after the love and loss and guilt of the family almost unbearable, and as for Forever Young… an audacity of compassion almost unbearable.
The ensemble remarkable as before: Sheila Atim has been cumbered with praise rightly but for me Shirley Henderson expressing in every move the dementia and disinhibition of Elizabeth, and suddenly emerging through it into great anthems from the primal depth of emotion and perception, is dazzling. But bloody hell, they all are. I have seen it three times, and have bought a high balcony ticket to go again before it ends. For my soul’s sake.
http://www.delfontmackintosh.co.uk to 24 March