Wednesday, 8 February 2023

REVIEW: Girl from the North Country at the Alexandra Birmingham

Sombre, solemn and powerful; Girl from the North Country returns with a UK tour that brings us back to reality and exalts human emotion.

Conor McPherson’s book tells the story of Nick Laine – the proprietor of a shabby guesthouse, and his family. His wife Elizabeth suffers from a form of dementia which impels outbursts from comical and childlike to violent and inhibited. The arrival of two unexpected guests during a stormy night makes a change in the inn and affects every character who inhabit it.

The set felt full and purposeful for a touring production and took the audience back to the melancholy year of 1934. The sepia-toned colour scheme felt drab and true to the era, setting the scene of a cosy, rundown guesthouse in Minnesota. With the Great Depression infiltrating the downbeat mood on stage, an on-edge and pensive receptiveness were abounding. 

With music by Bob Dylan, this jukebox musical isn’t your regular cliché of lazy storytelling that squeezes in a pop bop or two. The plot is not the strongest or most clear, yet the music drives the emotive scenes through – accompanied by powerhouse vocals and haunting arrangements. The added feel of a united ensemble is solidified by the actor-musicians, taking turns to play the selection of instruments on stage.

The women of this show are utterly spectacular and with a weak plot or not, Frances McNamee shines to the extremities. Her chilling and soul-awakening rendition of ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ was out of this world. Maria Omakinwa, plays the widow Mrs Neilsen, who is having an affair with Nick. Her presence on stage was a breath of fresh air and her vocals were captivating.

This stripped-back, raw and sincere production is worth the watch to inject some warmth and feeling into your winter.

Review by Esther Neville

Rating: ★★★★ 

Seat: Stalls H28 | Price of Ticket: £51.50

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