Based on the film of the same name, Once tells the story of an unnamed couple – an Irish busker (Declan Bennett) and young Czech mother (Zrinka Cvitešić) – who meet through a shared love of music.
While waiting for the show to start, audience members are invited up on to the stage to enjoy a drink on the bar room set, a clever conceit which creates a cosy atmosphere, opening you up to the emotions of the story.
As the last audience member is served and leaves the stage, the characters break into an ‘impromptu’ busking session setting the scene for our heroine (Girl) to be wowed by ‘Guy’s’ musical skills.
In the days following their initial encounter, the pair find themselves increasingly attracted to one another, could romance be in the air?
As you’d expect, this nascent relationship faces some hurdles – Guy is pining for the girlfriend who moved to the States while Girl’s estranged husband wants to repair their marriage.
A parade of memorable and beautifully performed songs guide us through the emotional roller-coaster of their limited days together – each taking both the audience and characters closer to a finale in which the pair must decide whether their futures lay together or with their established partners.
The story unfolds against the backdrop of the bar room, a simple set which allows the emotion and emerging relationship between the two leads to dominate proceedings.
Bennett and Cvitešić infuse their characters with a raw emotional longing which neatly captures those first few days of a new (potential) relationship while John Tiffany’s direction moves the story along in a deceptively subtle fashion.
Tiffany and movement director Steven Hoggett have crated an experience so seamless that it’s impossible to tell where the direction ends and the choreography starts.
And while the cast and characters sing and perform, Once is more a play about music than a traditional musical.
Fun and enjoyable, though often poignant and sad, Once The Musical makes for a great night out.
Visit oncemusical.co.uk for booking details.