Although Paris is often the first city that comes to mind when considering romantic weekend breaks, London has its own je ne sais quoi for couples, too. With a multitude of intimate hotels and world-famous sights, it really is a unique place for romancing. But the West End is where its heart is and, until the end of May next year, the Phoenix Theatre plays host to the British production of Enda Walsh’s Once, a truly romantic show and one not to be missed. If you’re already in the mood for romance, John Tiffany’s new direction of the show will satisfy your appetite, heart and soul.
With its premiere leaving Graham Norton nearly in tears, Lesley Nicol in awe of the talent, and Dara O’Briain finally believing the ‘mythic rumours from New York’, Once a New Musical was more than deserving of its 2013 Grammy win for Best Musical Theatre Album. Following a Guy and a Girl over the course of one week in Dublin as they fall in love through the power of music, it seems the apparent simplicity of the storyline of Once masks veritable depths of emotion, depths which gradually unravel as the drama unfolds between the Irish busker and the Czech single mother. Hence its phenomenal success as John Carney’s movie in 2007 (composers Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová winning an Oscar), during its Broadway run (winning no less than 8 Tony Awards in 2012), and now in London’s West End.
Starring Declan Bennett as Guy and Zrinka Cvitešić as Girl, an unusual aspect is that the cast play their own instruments. It helps that Bennett’s own background is as a singer songwriter keen on the eternal themes of love and sexuality, with a third album recently released, while Cvitešić is an accomplished dancer who studied music and occasionally sings at jazz festivals and clubs. That is, of course, in addition to their considerable acting credentials (Bennett’s Broadway background and Cvitešić’s award-winning movie career in Croatia). As they play the guitar and piano, respectively, live before your eyes, you can’t help but believe there is a magic weaving to connect them together, by strings both instrumental and cordial.
For an artistic creation to withstand going from low-budget folksy film to Broadway musical, it’s got to be something special, and Tiffany’s new interpretation makes the Tony Award-winning show “a bit edgier, a bit grittier, a bit more down to the roots”. Yet again, it works, Once a New Musical fitting in well to the London vibe. Plus, the Phoenix Theatre sits on Charring Cross Road, with Leicester Square and Covent Garden readily accessible, so a night with the cast of Once will only serve to improve any romantic getaway for two to the capital. It will certainly have you believing in love. See the show and then see the sights, either picking a matinee or evening performance, ticket prices starting at £19.50. Perhaps it might even have you planning a quick trip to Dublin next… To love!