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Review: ‘Girl from the North Country’ at the Wales Millennium Centre

By Carys Jones

Written and directed by Connor McPherson, with music and lyrics by Bob Dylan.

The celebrated playwright Conor McPherson rebirths the famous songs of Bob Dylan in a touching, but heart wrenching story of family and love. McPherson based the play in the hometown of Dylan’s birth, Duluth, Minnesota.

The play, set in 1934 in America’s heartland, is about a group of lost souls who cross paths through an aged guesthouse. All broke and struggling, they each try to find a place and purpose. Along the road they run into unwanted truths and heartbreaks. Girl from the north country has toured in the States and the UK in the past and has now headed back for a rerun, it has recieved numourose five star reviews and awards.

The casting for this show is sublime, each character was perfectly portrayed by the actors and actresses behind them. I was particularly drawn to the character (Ensemble), played by Nichola MacEvilly, who was deeply troubled, she displayed her characters’ restlessness, outbursts, upset and occasional funny saying, as if they were natural to her. Nichola’s singing voice was also what i would call a show stopper, i particularly loved her rendition of “like a rolling stone”. Each member of the cast had an amazing unique sound.

There was a three person orchestra which could be seen at the back left of the stage. I thought it was a great touch that the audience could see the orchestra on stage and appreciate the unbelievable music through sight aswell as sound. Each member of the cast would use percussion instruments to inhance the sound of the music behind the songs – I thoroughly enjoyed the sound of every song. Each cast member could sing and play a different instrument, the sound of all of there voices together gave me goosebumps. The whole audience was taken back when Ross Carswell, who played Ellias Burke started to play the harmonica, which he played with such ease, an instrument is that often forgotten but true to the era the show is set in.

The costume and set, designed by Rae Smith also left me with nothing to fault. The set was simple but beautiful, many items of furniture stayed the same throughout but were dressed in different ways to fit scenes and rooms. There were various backdrop changes throughout, to set the scene, some were drop down pieces of set and others were projected onto the back curtain. All of the costumes and set reflected the era perfectly, all of the outfits complimented the characters very well. The lighting was also just as good, I liked the imitation of natural light by using a cool toned gel to create, a light, slight blue coloured beam across the room. Smoke machines created the look of dust moats when crossed with the lights.

All in all, I think this show was amazing. It had the perfect amount of love, humour and heartbreak, but also leaving you on edge with questions…I would definitely recommend giving this show a watch if it is heading to a venue near you! I think McPherson complimented the ledgendary songs of Bob Dylan perfectly.

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