Review by Matthew Hocter
Theatre, when done right, should inspire, provoke conversation and even educate. Of recent, not much that I have seen has managed to convey even the slightest inkling of the above, if anything, I have more often than not walked away uninspired, at times, even dumbfounded as to what I had just witnessed. “Artistry” has taken on a whole new meaning and not always for the good.
Pulling up to the recently renovated Her Majesty’s Theatre in Adelaide, and the buzz surrounding Conor McPherson’s The Girl From the North Country was not just something that had been spoken about for the last few weeks, but now very apparent and very physical in front of my very eyes. My heart was warm with hope that this turn out would prove to be an indication of sorts that theatre, TRUE theatre was finally making a comeback. I was right.
Set in 1934 at Nick Laine’s boarding house in Duluth, Minnesota, we are introduced to a slew of characters and their stories that cover everything from loves lost to loves desire, scam artists, drifters and everything in between. As the stories overlap and intertwine, the uncertainty of the time and just how tough it was highlights the differences in how each character is looking for that financial miracle, but also how those very differences, as wrong or right as they may be, are also what connects us. Humanises us even.
Change is imminent and given the time that this play is set in, it is most definitely welcomed. With a cast as superb as this (the casting director deserves an award), every aspect of this play was executed to almost near perfection. Even with a set that is steeped in every shade of melancholy brown, well loved furniture and the peeling wallpaper (scenic and costume designer Rae Smith nailed the assignment), the lighting (by Mark Henderson) captures the performers in all their shades, each and every time.
It would be criminal to not acknowledge the vocal beauty of both Lisa McCune (Elizabeth Laine) and Christina O’Neill (Mrs Neilsen), something that was almost unexpected. Coupled with the music of Bob Dylan, both performers along with the rest of the cast delivered a truly magical experience that was neither traditional musical or reaching for something unattainable. It landed in its own space, a rare feat for any production and one that everyone should get along to see.
Image Credit: Daniel Boud and Matt Byrne