Girl From The North Country Review
Review by Callum Stott.
"A clear theme of a wish for a better tomorrow, feeling like a beating heart throughout the piece."
Is It a play, is it a musical? That is the question I kept asking myself throughout this production. The music is incredibly moving and powerful and is a stunning performance of the music of Bob Dylan. Combing that with the dramatic dialogue withing the plot makes this show feel very different, and I would go as far as to say that it is a real one-off experience in the theatre.
Like many in the audience, I did not know much about the show apart from the links to Bob Dylan, who even now at 81 years old, sells out venues worldwide. Girl From the North Country has also had an incredible journey, beginning as an Old Vic production, then appearing in the West End, and over to Broadway, and now on tour in Edinburgh.
Girl from the North Country follows the Laine Family, who are coming out of the Great Depression in 1930s America. Dr Walker (Chris McHallem) is the physician to the family and is the narrator of the show. Nick Laine (Colin Connor) heads up the family and does all he can to stop the bank from taking away his home. His wife, Elisabeth (with a stunning performance here by Frances McNamee), has Dementia, which makes her go through periods of schizophrenia and exhibit child-like energy. Her vocals are spot-on, and she commands the stage during her scenes. The show is a deep watch with moments of love, neglect, abuse, racial discrimination, and a clear theme of a wish for a better tomorrow, feeling like a beating heart throughout the piece.
Connor McPherson’s direction allowed the actors to breathe and become their roles. The team of actors he assembled brought justice to the piece. Although the show was sometimes hard to follow as there was so much going on, the performances he brought out with the talent on stage took you on that journey and allowed you to emotionally connect with the show.
The piece always felt unsteady and raw, and I think that echoes through the 22 Bob Dylan songs throughout the show. Bob Dylan’s music, like the show itself, is at times very much marmite in my eyes and the show took a non-conventical route to the theatre in that it felt its own thing. It doesn't fit into what I would describe as a play or a musical but more a raw musical performance with a detailed narrative encompassing it.
Overall, Girl From The North County is an entertaining watch in that you leave the theatre with a lasting impression of the performance. You will go on an emotional roller-coaster with the characters and be blown away by the outstanding vocalists performing some of Bob Dylan’s intelligently written and moving numbers.