ONCE is a beautifully told story about two people who bond together on a deep level. The play is set in Dublin, Ireland. The characters are simply called Guy and Girl. Guy is Irish, Girl is a Czech immigrant. They meet when Guy is busking on the streets of Dublin and the Girl passing by likes his evocative music.
It is in many ways a comical first meeting. She asks him what does he do for a living he says that he fixes vacuum cleaners. She tells him that he can fix her vacuum cleaner that is broken, In return he can have her friendship and she will play him her music.
They start hanging out together, she meets his Dad, he meets her friends and her Mum. Girl tells Guy that he needs to make an album of music that he can take to New York and then he can make a name for himself. They need to find the money to book a recording studio for twenty four hours. From very early on in the play we sense that Girl will be his muse, his inspiration.
My favourite scene is when they go to a bank manager for a loan. They just show him a piece of paper that’s their application form. The bank manager isn’t interested at all even when she says to him ‘think about how Ireland is so rich in music such as Van Morrison, in literature such as Joyce, Beckett and many more, telling him that he should support the arts. The only thing that gets to him is when the Guy sings a song for him which is very powerful, and then the Bank Manager gets a guitar from out of a cupboard and sings a song very boisterously.
Another fetching scene is when the men group together and sing a capella a .poignant ballad as they look out to the sea. We also see another .scene where Guy and Girl do the same. Both of these scenes depict a time for reflection, and wistfulness about the ebb and flow of life.
Music is the heart and soul of this show. Everyone in the show plays some musical instrument and the stage is truly alive when it is filled with everyone ‘jamming’ together. One felt like going on stage and dancing and immersing oneself in the lives of these colourful characters. There was so much joie de vivre.
The end of the play is left open ended. Maybe there is even room for a sequel. What happens after he goes to New York?!
The show is very well directed by Richard Carroll with Movement Director Amy Campbell doing a great job .with the largish cast. Victoria Falconer is the very able music director as well as having the small bit part of Reza.
Carroll’s creative team is excellent, Hugh O’ Connor’s set design features a large bar area stage right and stage left ls Guy’s small bedsit.. The centre stage area is left free for the musicians to roam and there’s a piano that is moved around depending on the scene. One of the performers gets around on roller skates.
O’Connor’s costume design impressed with very day clothes fitting in with the style of the Dubliners.
Peter Rubie’s lighting design is complex and very evocative.
The cast is great. In the leads Stefanie Caccamo and Toby Francis. They are supported by Joe Accaria, Cameron Daddo, Abe Mitchell, Conrad Hamill, Drew Livingston, Rupert Reid, Alex Stedman, Joanna Weinberg and Victoria Falconer.
The book for ONCE is by Enda Walsh with music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova.
Don’t think twice about seeing ONCE. Recommended, ONCE is playing the Eternity Playhouse, 39 Burton Street, Darlinghurst until 21 July, 2019. The show then goes down to the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre for one week and then comes back for an extended week at the Eternity Playhouse between 30th July to Sunday 4th August, 2019.
Production photos by Robert Catto.