New Wolsey Theatre Ipswich until 22 September

Reviewer: Lesley Rawlinson

This is a story with heart; a transformative bitter-sweet love story in which the unfinished business of love that’s not quite broken weaves an unwritten rule between its subjects.

I’d seen the film – and recall enjoying it – but couldn’t for the life of me remember the substance of the story but, in the re-telling of Once, playwright Edna Walsh has added much needed colour and energy to this ‘masterclass in understatement’.

When you enter an auditorium and you already feel as though you’re part of the action it’s easy to lose yourself in the surroundings and become another interested bystander rather than that feeling of viewing from afar. The stunningly well designed set transforms the New Wolsey stage into a Dublin pub and we’ve walked in on a live music night - and it’s completely convincing.

As the story unfolds all action is cleverly staged without a need for set changes (big tick in my box), instead there’s well-choreographed prop placement by the cast – most of whom remain onstage throughout putting them in the same position as audience members, eagerly anticipating the next move.

Emma Lucia gives a mesmerising performance as the music loving Czech girl, living in Dublin. An effortless and flawless delivery of a complex character who simply wants to be taken at face value. Daniel Healy as our brow-beaten ‘hero’ responded with believable angst and revealed his warmth and soul as the piece progressed.

The multi-talented cast of perfectly in tune – both musically and with each other’s performances -  actor-musicians were simply a joy to watch. By the climax I was feeling teary and as the entire audience rose to give their ovation it was clear I was not the only one touched by what had unfolded before us.

Bravo –I’d watch again – 10 out of 10.


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