Friday 12 April 2013


Theatre review: Once

Synopsis: Based on the much-loved Oscar-winning film, Once is an extraordinary, original and irresistibly joyous celebration of love, friendship and music.

When an Irish busker and a young Czech girl meet through a shared love of music, their songwriting sparks a deep connection and a tender, longing romance that neither of them could have expected.

Cast: Declan Bennett, Zrinka Cvitešić. Valda Aviks, Phoebe Fildes, Ryan Fletcher, Allison Harding, Aidan Kelly, Gareth O’Connor, Michael O’Connor, Tim Parker, Miria Parvin, Jos Slovick, Flora Spencer–Longhurst, Alex Turney, Jez Unwin, Gabriel Vick, Robbie White, Poppy–Lily Baker, Mia–Jai Bryan, Pacha Ann Green, Nancy Ann Jeans.


Once is the second big Broadway transfer to open in the West End in as many months but in contrast to the loud and in-your-face publicity that announced the arrival of The Book of Mormon to London, Once subtly crept into the city which perfectly depicts the show's integrity and the power that lays in its tranquillity.

The musical is an adaptation of the 2006 Oscar-winning film of the same title and took Broadway by storm last year where it won an astonishing eight Tony Awards, including the one for Best New Musical. The story sounds simple - an Irish busker finds an unlikely musical muse in a Czech girl he meets on the streets of Dublin - but the show relishes in its simplicity and manages to tell the beautiful love story of Guy and Girl with little fanfare, hitting the emotions right in the spot.

Declan Bennett (Guy) and Zrinka Cvitešić (Girl)

Declan Bennett and Zrinka Cvitešić give heartfelt and honest performances as Guy and Girl. The two leads have an undeniable chemistry that is particularly vivid when their voices blend together to perform the iconic songs by Glen Hansard and will pull at the heartstrings of even the most skeptical of audience members. Their romantic journey is beautiful and sad at the same time and feels exceptionally real to those watching it unfold on stage.

However, what makes Once a particularly extra-ordinary piece of theatre is the unquestionable musical abilities on display from all of the cast members on stage. The show doesn't have a separate orchestra to rely on for musical accompaniment, instead the beautiful combination of Irish and Czech folk music is performed by the actors with for musical theatre an unusual combination of instruments ranging from a violin and mandolin to an accordion.

The West End company of Once

The fantastic staging deserves a mention as well as its muted design proves a very effective way of painting the somber settings of the play. The set changes little throughout the performance (other than rearrangements of chairs, tables and musical instruments) which not only adds to the feeling of sobriety but also creates an intimate atmosphere. The backdrop of mirrors is particularly powerful as it provides the audience with a perfect view of the performers from all angles.

A production photo that shows the beautiful mirrored backdrop in the bar

Once is a mesmerising piece of theatre which combines a simple but effective love story with the power of real artists performing beautiful music on stage. Amongst the wealth of jukebox musicals currently gracing West End stages this show is a unique addition and a welcome one at that.

Tip: When you see the show make sure to arrive well on time. Before the performance starts the audience is allowed to venture onto the stage where you can buy drinks from the bar and even get a chance to mingle with the performers as they play songs twenty minutes before the official start time, which sets up the intimate and informal mood for the rest of the evening.

Declan Bennett (Guy) and Zrinka Cvitešić (Girl)

Phoenix Theatre, 110 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0JP.

Links: Official website - Facebook - Twitter - Book Tickets


  1. Oh, I really want to see this. You're right in that it's been so low key, aside from many posters on the Tube, I haven't heard much else about Once.

    Great review.


  2. If you do go see it, they do £19.50 day seats which are well worth it! They sell a specific section of the theatre in the morning but if you go to the theatre about an hour before the show starts they'll sell whatever is still available (so top price too, which is normally £60+) for this price.

  3. Anonymous12/1/14 09:36

    Fantastic review.

    I hope to get to see this when I visit London at some point in the year. (Fingers crossed).


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