Previewed 12 July 2017, Opened 26 July 2017, Closed 7 October 2017 at the Old Vic Theatre
Previewed 29 December 2017, Opened 11 January 2018, Closed 24 March 2018 at the Noel Coward Theatre
The World Premiere of Conor McPherson's new play Girl From the North Country in London - featuring classic songs by Bob Dylan
1934. Duluth, Minnesota in the midst of the Great Depression. A family adrift, their future on a knife edge. Lost and lonely people drifting through rooms of their guesthouse. But Nick Laine thinks he's seen a way out...
Following a hugely successful and acclaimed twelve week season at the Old Vic Theatre, this production transfers to the Noel Coward Theatre from 29 December 2017.
Directed by Conor McPherson with movement by Lucy Hind, designs by Rae Smith, lighting by Mark Henderson and sound by Simon Baker. Music and lyrics by Bob Dylan, arranged by Simon Hale. PLEASE NOTE that this production contains some moderate use of strong language and adult themes.
The original cast at the Old Vic Theatre featured Ciaran Hinds as 'Nick Laine', Sheila Atim as 'Marianne Laine', Shirley Henderson as 'Elizabeth Laine', Sam Reid as 'Gene Laine', Jim Norton as 'Mr Perry', Ron Cook as 'Dr Walker', Stanley Townsend as 'Mr Burke', Bronagh Gallagher as 'Mrs Burke', Jack Shalloo as 'Elias Burke', Debbie Kurup as 'Mrs Neilsen', Claudia Jolly as 'Katherine Draper', Arinze Kene as 'Joe Scott', Michael Shaeffer as 'Reverend Marlowe', Kirsty Malpass, Tom Peters, and Karl Queensborough. Musicians: Alan Berry, Charlie Brown, Pete Callard, and Don Richardson.
The original cast at the Noel Coward Theatre featured Ciaran Hinds as 'Nick Laine', Sheila Atim as 'Marianne Laine', Shirley Henderson as 'Elizabeth Laine', Sam Reid as 'Gene Laine', Karl Johnson as Mr Perry', Adam James as Dr Walker', David Ganly as 'Mr Burke', Bronagh Gallagher as 'Mrs Burke', Jack Shalloo as 'Elias Burke', Debbie Kurup as 'Mrs Neilsen', Claudia Jolly as 'Katherine Draper', Arinze Kene as 'Joe Scott', Finbar Lynch as 'Reverend Marlowe', Hannah Azuonye, Ross Dawes, Mary Doherty, and Emmanuel Kojo. Musicians: Alan Berry, Charlie Brown, Pete Callard, and Don Richardson.
Conor McPherson's West End credits include The Weir which was most recently revived at the Wyndham's Theatre in 2014 in a production starring Brian Cox, Ardal O'Hanlon and Dervla Kirwan and directed by Josie Rouke, and Port Authority - which Conor McPherson also directed - at the Ambassadors Theatre in 2001 with a cast that featured Stephen Brennon, Eanna MacLiam and Jim Norton.
When this production opened here at the Noel Coward Theatre in January 2018, Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times praised it as being "original, beautiful and moving, combining the starkness of Steinbeck with haunting lyricism to create something restless, desperate, hopeful and sad.... Beautifully orchestrated by Simon Hale, performed live by the cast and onstage musicians, the songs emerge fresh, sometimes almost unrecognisable and often exceptionally moving." Claire Allfree in the Daily Telegraph said that it's "not very often, a piece of theatre comes along that radiates an ineffable magic. Conor McPherson’s musical play, which draws on heavily reworked versions of familiar and obscure Bob Dylan songs, is one such show.... Very special." Dominic Maxwell in the Times highlighted that in "this incredible Bob Dylan musical... the ensemble is outstanding. No weak links. Bob Dylan fans will find it fascinating and ingenious, nothing like the standard jukebox musical... Taking old ingredients as his starting point, Conor McPherson has come up with something bewitchingly original. It’s pure stage magic." Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard wrote that "Bob Dylan’s songs may not be the stuff of a slick jukebox musical, but they have a rich sense of theatre, and twenty-one of them feature in Conor McPherson’s play — a portrait of desire and desperation that premiered at the Old Vic last summer and now gets a well-deserved West End transfer." Patrick Marmion in the Daily Mail commented that, "I love Bob Dylan and I love the lyrical Irish playwright Conor McPherson, who is best known for his West End hit The Weir. But together in this soulful musical that has now moved from the Old Vic to the West End proper? I’m not so sure... it left me craving more Dylan and McPherson — independent of each other."
Ciaran Hinds' London theatre credits include the role of 'Captain Jack Boyle' opposite Sinead Cusack as 'Juno Boyle' in Howard Davies' 2011 revival of Sean O'Casey's Juno and the Paycock at the National Theatre. Jack Shalloo's credits include Matthew Warchus' 2016 West End Premiere of the Tim Minchin and Danny Rubin musical Groundhog Day at the Old Vic Theatre. Debbie Kurup's theatre credits include the role of 'Mimi' in Paul Kerryson's 2001 revival of Jonathan Larson's musical Rent at the Prince of Wales Theatre.
When this production opened at the Old Vic Theatre in July 2017, Michael Billington in the Guardian explained that "it is the constant dialogue between the drama and the songs that makes this show exceptional... As director, McPherson has created an astonishingly free-flowing production and the 19-strong cast, which includes three musicians, is so uniformly strong it is tough to pick out individuals." Ann Treneman in the Times praised the production saying: "The result is an instant American classic: a tale of heartbreak and hardscrabble, poetic but not without fun... The songs emerge out of the dialogue, lyrics interweaving with scenes in uncanny ways. It is genius the way that McPherson has tapped into the American folk era of Woody Guthrie and hobos, something that inspired Dylan in his early freewheeling days." Paul Taylor in the i Newspaper thought that "rather than move the show forward, the songs open it up, conversing with the drama and amplifying the mood of Depression-era despair or hope, and providing the lift to transcendence... Two formidable artists have shown respect for the integrity of each other's work here and the result is magnificent." Fiona Mountford in the London Evening Standard described it as being "a fluid, slow-burn production unafraid to unfold to its own unhurried rhythms. It resembles nothing so much as a collection of meticulously rendered short stories, soaked in quiet melancholy... This is Dylan like we've never heard him before, 20 songs sculpted into plaintive but beautiful new arrangements by Simon Hale. Some numbers are familiar, others less so, but nearly all are delivered so hauntingly well by the company that they send shivers down the spine as we hear the lyrics afresh... Magnificent." Ian Shuttleworth in the Financial Times highlighted that "it's a determined ensemble piece with a stellar cast," adding that "it feels stagey and a little distant... the result is an intelligent, inventive production with no significant fault, but in the end no compelling connection either." Neil Norman in the Daily Express commented how "Bob Dylan's songs illuminate the action and the characters at various intervals. This is not a musical as such but a play with songs delivered directly to the audience, often around an old-fashioned microphone. It is a quaint device and it works beautifully... Dylan purists will probably disapprove but who cares? For all its rough edges, I loved it." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail wrote that "in a traditional musical, the songs help to develop the plot; here, they merely match the mood of the character involved... The important thing is you soak up the vibes and look for value in Dylan's music away from the man himself. It does not work all the time but the enterprise is bold and honourable." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph said that, "ingrate that I am, I confess to being a mite underwhelmed by this valiant and undeniably accomplished effort to do something more oblique with songs that will outlive us all. Conor McPherson has shepherded 20 tracks into a populous, ethereal play that combines the grit of the Great Depression with something numinous and mysterious."
Jim Norton's London credits include the role of 'Ding-Ding' in Robert Delamere's 2005 West End premiere of Owen McCafferty's comedy Shoot The Crow at the Trafalgar Studios; Conor McPherson's Port Authority at the Ambassadors Theatre in 2001; and the role of 'Brother Martin Ladvenu' in Ronald Eyre's 1984 revival of George Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan starring Frances de la Tour in the title role at the National Theatre. Ron Cook's theatre credits include the role of 'Sir Charles Gurney' in Jamie Lloyd's 2015 revival of Peter Barnes' comedy The Ruling Class, starring James McAvoy as 'Jack Gurney', at the Trafalgar Studios; the role of 'Max' in Jamie Lloyd's 2015 revival of Harold Pinter's classic play The Homecoming at the Trafalgar Studios; the role of 'Pistol' in Michael Grandage's 2013 revival William Shakespeare's Henry V, starring Jude Law in the title role, at the Noel Coward Theatre; the role of 'Sir Toby Belch' in Michael Grandage's 2008 revival of William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, starring Derek Jacobi as 'Malvolio', at the Wyndham's Theatre; the role of 'Lapo' opposite Ralf Little as 'Loti' in Jennie Darnell's 2005 West End Premiere of Nigel Planer's debut play On The Ceiling at the Garrick Theatre; and the role of 'Joxer Daly' in John Crowley's 1999 revival of Sean O'Casey's Juno and the Paycock at the Donmar Warehouse. Stanley Townsend's London theatre credits include the role of 'Sims' in Jeremy Herrin's 2014 London Premiere of Jennifer Haley's The Nether at the Royal Court Theatre and then the Duke of York's Theatre; the role of 'Dr Harry Hyman' in Iqbal Khan's 2011 revival of Arthur Miller's Broken Glass, starring Anthony Sher as 'Phillip Gellburg' and Tara Fitzgerald as 'Sylvia Gellburg', at the Vaudeville Theatre; the role of 'Big Jule' in Richard Eyre's 1996 revival of the Frank Loesser and Damon Runyon musical Guys and Dolls at the National Theatre; and the role of 'Fluther Good' in Sam Mendes' 1991 revival of Sean O'Casey's Juno and the Paycock at the Young Vic Theatre. Michael Shaeffer's West End credits include Tom Cairns' 2007 West End Premiere of Samuel Adamson's play, based on the film by Pedro Almodovar, All About My Mother at the Old Vic Theatre.
"If you head to the West End transfer of this Old Vic production fearing it might be a sacrilegious mash-up of Bob Dylan's greatest hits, fear not. Conor McPherson's sublime play is the perfect accompaniment to Bob's freewheelin', rough-roundthe-edges songs, and just as full of raw, haunting emotion. Expect some gems, other lesser-known numbers, but all given beautifully haunting new arrangements. The stories, which all converge on a boarding house in Dylan's hometown of Duluth, Minnesota, during the Great Depression, ooze emotion, peppered as they are with down-on-their-luck characters from a crooked Bible salesman to an ex-con boxer. Standout performances come from Ciaran Hinds as landlord Nick, Shirley Henderson, who is tragic, funny and deeply moving as his wife Elizabeth, and their daughter, pregnant Marianne, a star turn from Sheila Atim. Unforgettable." The Sunday Mirror
"Bob Dylan's management gave the playwright Conor McPherson unrestricted use of his songbook, and the result is a play of constant sorrows... The narrative slopes undeviatingly downwards; Dylan's songs expand the emotional palette: direct and gnomic, raging and desiring. McPherson's staging, like a homey radio broadcast, clusters actors around mikes, accompanied by 1930s instruments. The oddballs and misfits are played by arresting performers who emerge as plangent singers. At the centre are Ciaran Hinds's Nick - tellingly, the only non-singer - grimly holding it together, and Shirley Henderson, astonishing as his spiky sprite of a wife, her every mewl and shimmy magnetic." The Sunday Times
"In short, you get the storytelling tradition of folk music married to a setting that evokes both John Steinbeck's Dust Bowl novels and perhaps a period film by the Coen brothers. The music really makes it. Dylan's great songs will have you singing into the back of your hand... Sheila Atim - as the pregnant Marianne - is the outstanding performer in a strong cast that includes regulars from Conor McPherson's previous plays... The drama of the songs fills up a hole where there should be more of a play. But all in all, the experiment is a triumph of pain, mood and tone. The songs are left blowing in the wind that you can feel cutting across The Old Vic's huge prairie of a stage. Certainly, Dylan fans have no choice but to grab tickets." The Mail on Sunday
"What an entrancing, not entirely successful, must-see show this is. Conor McPherson has constructed a musical play using 20 classic - and not so classic - tracks from across Bob Dylan's career. Each has been hauntingly rearranged by Simon Hale, sometimes almost beyond recognition. The effect, as dialogue and song bleed in and out of each other in a fluid, dream-like piece of theatre, is sublime.... McPherson's play can't escape its debt to other, greater American plays, and were you to strip away the music its shortcomings would be obvious. There is something slightly suspect, too, about abject poverty being presented with such deliberate beauty: I've never seen such a dementia sufferer look so lovely as Shirley Henderson's Elizabeth does. But these are minor quibbles in a free-flowing production in which Dylan's songs become their own ghost play. Many of the cast are outstanding singers. Henderson performs Forever Young with poignancy; Sheila Atim, who plays Marianne, delivers Tight Connection To My Heart as a folk lament thick with yearning. This show isn't always fully in focus but, when it is, It's wondrous." The Metro
Girl From the North Country in London at the Noel Coward Theatre previewed from 29 December 2017, opened on 11 January 2018 and closed on 24 March 2018 - a transfer from the Old Vic Theatre