Beginning life as a low budget feature film, Once, the story of a Dublin street busker and a Czech musician who bond over their love of music, has enthralled audiences since it was released. Audiences are now getting the chance to see it live on a UK tour.
Emma Lucia plays Girl, in this simplistically beautiful production. We chatted to her about her role, life as an actor-muso, her tour essentials and much more…
Give us the lowdown on Once, what can audiences expect?
Once is such a tricky show to explain because it’s really unique, but it’s essentially a play about an Irish guy and a Czech girl who meet in Dublin and form a really special friendship based on their love for music. The show is packed with Irish/folk music and each song is played by the 16 actors on stage – there are about 30 instruments in total so the sound is really something! Anyone watching the show for the first time can expect to laugh (a lot), cry (a bit) and leave feeling really uplifted.
You play Girl, what’s she like as a character? Are you alike in any ways?
Girl is SUCH a fun character to play. She’s ridiculously optimistic, hilariously blunt and incredibly kind which is quite inspiring because they’re all qualities that I love in a person. I think I’m quite a positive person (or at least I try to be, I sometimes struggle on Mondays) so I guess we have that in common!
The cast is made up of amazing actor-musos, what’s it like being surrounded by music all the time both on and offstage?
Oh it’s amazing – these guys are sooo talented. It’s so inspiring to share a stage with such incredible musicians and they’re all so lovely which makes it even better. Everyone’s constantly practising or working on new material for the pre-show jam – there is literally no peace and quiet but I love it.
If your life was going to be made into a folk musical, who would you want to play you?
I love this question. Mmm probably Jessie Buckley because she has the most beautiful voice and she seems like an equally beautiful person. And she has fabulous hair. I’m aiming high here.
This is an ensemble led piece, with every cast member invested in every moment. What was the rehearsal process like to create such a tight-knit group?
We actually gelled really quickly in rehearsals. A lot of people had worked together before so most people already knew each other, and I remember sitting on our lunch break on day one and thinking that we’re going to have a lot of fun on this tour. I also think it helps that it’s such an ensemble-led piece because it means there’s a constant feeling of it being a team effort – no one actor is more important than another and that keeps us all really grounded and connected.
What’s your favourite moment in the show?It has to be When Your Mind’s Made Up in Act 2. It’s my favourite song in the whole show and it’s so fun to play! I really struggle to describe why I love it so much but there’s a point where the lyrics stop and the whole cast just hold their notes, and I remember hearing that moment for the first time when I watched the show in the West End and understanding exactly what they were all feeling – even though they weren’t actually saying any words. It’s bizarre how music can make you feel connected in a way that words sometimes can’t.
What are your tour essentials?Hmmm… I have a sleep mask which is an absolute life-saver – it means I can nap just about anywhere! I also like to have lots of pictures/positive quotes to put up in my dressing room and an unlimited supply of rescue remedy for when I feel particularly nervous. Oh and berocca. Lots of berocca.
Other than the beautiful music, what do you think makes Once such a special and enduring piece of theatre? I think it’s because it’s such a simple and realistic story – the characters (aptly named Guy and Girl) could literally be anyone. Falling in love is wonderful but it doesn’t always work out the way you want it to – life sometimes gets in the way and I think a lot of people can relate to this. Once isn’t hugely romanticised and I think that’s what people love about it.
What’s your top piece of advice for aspiring performers? Without a doubt: have confidence in yourself. There’s so much criticism and rejection in this industry – it’s all part of the job, so you have to make sure that you believe in yourself otherwise you’ll never be able to enjoy it! Even if you have to fake it for a while, it’s so important that you compliment and congratulate yourself for achieving the tiniest of goals or even just for being brave enough to have a go! I think most actors go through phases of having imposter syndrome, where they don’t think they’re “good enough”, and I really struggle to take my own advice sometimes… but it really is the most powerful thing – if you believe in yourself, nine times out of ten so will everybody else.
Once next plays at the New Victoria Theatre and then continues it’s UK tour
Interview by Editor, Olivia Mitchell