Saturday, September 3, 2022

Girl From the North Country. Written and directed by Conor McPherson. Music and lyrics by Bob Dylan. Canberra Theatre August 25 - September 3. Reviewed by ALANNA MACLEAN.

Photo: Daniel Boud.

GIRL From the North Country
has a script by playwright Conor McPherson (who also directs) and uses the magnetic songs of Bob Dylan to tell a story of life in a failing hotel in a small town in Depression America.

Hard times have hit, the owners will lose the place and  and the guests’ stories are a microcosm of those times.

McPherson’s powerful sense of theatre combined with Dylan’s clear and provocative social commentary ought to work but don’t altogether for me in this production. Never was a Dylan fan but was certainly aware of the drive of his ideas. 

When Dylan does those songs you can’t help hearing every word and more to the point all those ideas. You don’t in this show, despite the quality of the cast. And a lot of the spoken word is also blurry. I even wondered in passing if there was a sound problem. Was the show getting lost in the Canberra Theatre? Would the Playhouse have suited it better? 

Then veteran actor Peter Carroll came on as the lovelorn Mr Perry, clutching a bouquet of flowers which he will give to anyone who’ll have him and we heard everything he said.

Later on, Lisa McCune’s demented  Elizabeth Laine  finally spoke her inner undemented thoughts and we heard all of those, too. Likewise, Helen Dallimore as the increasingly desperate Mrs Burke and Chemon Theys as the resolute Maryanne were clear and strong. 

Girl From the North Country  has a hard working cast of actors and musos, an evocative set and a story that feels like I with perhaps a wry touch of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town.  

Lots to say, but whether it altogether comes off is another matter.