Written and directed by Conor McPherson, with music and lyrics by Bob Dylan, Girl From The North Country is set in the 1930s in Duluth, Minnesota, opening in an American boarding house run by Nick Laine (Colin Connor). Right from the start there is a sense that all is not right, and as we are introduced to the characters it becomes apparent that everyone has a story of hardship and loss to tell.
The character portrayals are absolutely believable and many provoke an instant connection. Frances McNamee as Nick’s mentally ill wife Elizabeth Laine is multifaceted and raw to the bone as she flits from delusional outbursts to seemingly crystal-clear understandings of her place in life. Colin Connor as Nick Laine is a man who has a dark past and is haunted by it daily, but despite his big heart and desire to succeed he never seems to quite make it in anything he does, be it business or relationships. Both are standout performances and mesmerising to watch.
But this is not just a hard-hitting story about, life, loss and the great American depression, it’s also supported by the great music and lyrics of the legendary Bob Dylan. The works of Dylan are interwoven throughout the performance with absolute precision and rather intense emotion by the extraordinary talented cast. It’s not a ‘jukebox musical’ – the songs set the scene rather than being the emphasis.
In an artistic sense, there is a wonderful use of backlighting in some scenes, creating a silhouette effect of the ensemble in the background while the main character is lit by spotlight singing the main part. This looks visually interesting and helps define the individuality of the character, but without totally separating them from the rest of the ensemble. The stage set reflected the era in which it was based, giving the audience an instant reference point and low lighting emphasised the oppressive and often bleak life around that time.
A live band, cleverly set on stage as if part of the scenery, played throughout the show and were often joined by other cast members.
There are numerous character plot twists throughout the show, and while there is a dark nature to some of them, it was hit with a sprinkle of humour to soften the hard-hitting truth of reality and life in that era. There is a focus of the racism in America at the time and some strong language in parts if you’re thinking of bringing younger family members to come and see it.
A rollercoaster of emotions, thought provoking at times and heart breaking at others, all wrapped up in the musical talents of Bob Dylan. Absolutely worth a watch.
Girl From The North Country will be on stage at The Alexandra Theatre from Tuesday 7th Feb – Saturday 11th Feb 2023. Purchase your tickets here
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