Review: Girl From The North Country
A musical like no other I’ve seen. Girl from the north country is cleverly put together with an impressive score, choreography and integration that makes it very different to the normal musical you may see.
Girl From The North Country arrived at the Newcastle Theatre Royal on Monday, and we popped along to see it on its second night. It is set within a boarding-house in Dylan’s home-town of Duluth, Minnesota in 1934, during the depression.
This boarding house introduces us to multiple characters, relationships and stories. Dr Walker (Chris McHallem) narrates partially throughout and sets the scene. Nick Laine (Colin Connor) is the owner, close to bankruptcy and trying to keep it afloat. He looks after his wife Elizabeth (Frances McNamee) who is ill and needs constant care due to dementia. Their son Gene (Gregor Milne) is an unaccomplished writer, seeking inspiration more often in the bottom of a bottle than anyhwere else. He is urged by his father to get a job and make something of himself. Their daughter Marieann (Justina Kehinde) an abandoned child, adopted by the Raines to raise. A black girl in a white family, now pregnant herself keeps secret the identity of the father. Father Nick wants a secure life for her and arranges a potential suitor for her in Mr Teddy (Teddy Kempner) an older lonely man seeking company.
Within the guesthouse are Mrs Neilson (Nichola MacEvilly) a widow awaiting probate, and one that is having an affair with our owner, we see talks and hope for a future together come and go. Family of three, Businessman Mr Burke (Neil Stewart) Wife, Mrs Burke (Rebeccca Thornhill) and Son, Elias (Ross Carswell) of whom has a young mental age, passing through chasing a debt. Joined in the middle of the night by bible salesman Reverend Marlowe (Owen LLoyd) and boxer come escaped convict Joe Scott (Joshua C Jackson).
Through the interaction of these boarders we get to learn of different hopes, dreams and challenges faced by each other, each having reasons for being here at this point and time. We find most are running from something and in search of something more.
‘A musical like no other I’ve seen. Girl from the north country is cleverly put together with an impressive score, choreography and integration‘
This is a musical like no other, It is more a play with musical accompaniment. The integration of lyrics isn’t squeezed or shoehorned into the script to fit.
It shines as a transition between scenes or a pause in reality where we are given a characters feelings and emotions. It is this that makes it so superb. The choice of song was perfect and I loved the musical arrangement given to them. The blending with feet stomping and claps brought a rawness. These moments often backed by the ensemble cast were brilliant.
The dance and choreography clearly well thought out. A live band situated in the top left of the stage were a constant. A microphone placed periodically on stage where charatcers shared, gave it an immersive feel.
While this isn’t the happiest or most upbeat of storylines you will ever come across (it is set in the depression after all), it doesn’t really build from a start to a finish, it is more a fly on the wall in within a moment of time.
I can’t say I’m a particularly huge Dylan fan however was able to recognise a lot of the songs. It is the arrangement and delivery of these that would make me come back and see this again. Maybe for Dylan fans specifically or if you want a musical experience like no other, then Girl from the north country is for you.
Photo Credit: Johan Persson
Girl From The North Country plays at Newcastle Theatre Royal from Mon 26 Sep – Sat 1 Oct 2022. Tickets priced from £15.00 can be purchased at www.theatreroyal.co.uk or from the Box Office on 0191 232 7010.