Theatre: Once - Olympia Theatre, Dublin


After Broadway, Hollywood and the West End have submitted to its understated charm and awesome heartwarming capabilities, Once: The Musical, rolls into Dublin for a second run.

The original film by John Carney was a humble study in atmosphere and location, its small scale working well in close-ups and intimate settings. That aspect, however, is dissipated on Bob Crowley’s spacious set, a generic Irish pub that sets the template for this production.

Director John Tiffany appears none too concerned with a realistic account of its Dublin location, despite several nods and opportunities afforded by Enda Walsh’s script.

Tom Parsons takes on the role of the vacuum-cleaner-fixing busker, while the Czech girl is played by Megan Riordan. Parsons’ mid-Atlantic accent adds to the feeling of placelessness and his singing voice hearkens back to the mid-2000s conveyor belt of whiny singer-songwriters.

Riordan, so often a performer of conviction and spark, is hampered here by the Czech accent she must adopt. It’s a hurdle she largely overcomes, and her solo piano song is the show’s highlight; but she and Parsons are unable to find the necessary onstage chemistry.

They do a lot of looking askance and posing awkwardly, but don’t get much beyond that. This is a pity, since it’s hard to get much excited about a plot centred on (how quaint) the recording of a demo.

Glen Hansard’s songs don’t have to be showtunes in the Broadway sense of brash orchestration and wordplay, but it would help the overall coherence if they were more about character and situation, and less about familiar singer-songwriter tropes of loneliness and longing.

The group numbers are better, given great vibrancy and life by a supporting cast of players to create an infectious, likeable mood.

Alan O’Riordan

Until August 22


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