Reviewed by Emma Brailsford
As an avid musical-lover, getting the opportunity to review the double Olivier and Tony award-winning ‘Girl from the North Country’ on its first major UK tour was a fantastic treat.
‘Girl from the North Country’, written and directed by Connor McPherson, features the music of American singer-songwriter, Bob Dylan who was an early performer on the folk music scene and whose career has spanned more than 60 years.
The audience were transported back to a busy but dilapidated Minnesota guesthouse in the depths of winter and the Great Depression in 1934. Each of the characters staying in the house had a story to tell and many secrets to hide, and all were seeking solutions for their money problems whilst, at the same time, seeking the desire to feel loved and secure. Themes of the production included crime, racism, pregnancy outside of a committed relationship, substance abuse and mental health. This was not a happy, singalong musical – this was a dark, gritty play featuring powerful, soulful songs which acted as accompanying soundtrack to the stories of the characters.
The cast of this show were outstanding. Every single actor was full of energy and portrayed their soul-searching character with aplomb. The twenty songs during ‘Girl from the North Country’ were sung with feeling, and the actors singing the solos belted the tunes out with power and emotion. It was tricky to choose a stand-out performance but for me it was Frances McNamee who played Elizabeth Laine, the mentally ill wife of the guesthouse owner, Nick Laine. Frances McNamee’s energy was hypnotising, and her comic timing was perfect.
The phenomenal four-piece, The Howlin’ Winds, provided the instrumental accompaniment to the nineteen cast members and were incorporated into the set on stage which added to the overall ambience.
The New Victoria Theatre, Woking is attached to the Peacocks Shopping Centre in the city centre and is therefore easily located via road signs. There is plenty of under-cover parking if driving but if train travel is your preferable mode of transport, Woking train station is only five minutes walk away.
If you are after a pre-theatre bite to eat, there is a pizzeria named ‘Pizza Al Teatro’, located in the theatre foyer, which offers freshly baked sourdough pizzas and salads. There are also three bars selling a selection of drinks and theatre snacks. If you want an added touch of luxury, you can pre-book a seat in the Ambassador Lounge where you can enjoy a guaranteed seat, a host service and selection of premium refreshments.
The seats in the auditorium are comfortable, if a little worn, with plenty of leg room and staff are on-hand to help with any queries.
I thoroughly enjoyed the show and would recommend ‘Girl from the North Country’ to devoted Bob Dylan fans as well as those who are not so familiar with his music – the cast and musicians were fantastic and contributed equally to make the show a wonderful, captivating evening.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Ticket cost: from £13 + £3.95 transaction fee. Local heroes (teachers, social care workers, prison officers, armed forces and ‘blue light’ professionals can get 25% off selected performances)
Running time: 2 hrs 40 mins (including interval)
‘Girl from the North Country’ is on at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking from Tuesday 22nd November to Saturday 26th November 2022.
For more information or to book tickets, visit https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/girl-from-the-north-country/new-victoria-theatre/
The Ambassadors, The Peacocks Centre, Woking GU21 6GQ