A slice of gritty realism from 1930s Midwest America with the musical sprinklings of Minessota’s most famous son on top...
Set in Duluth, Minnesota in 1934, Girl From The North Country is a story about a dozen or so people and their intertwined lives. It’s set around a run-down guest house and is soundtracked by Bob Dylan songs; to be precise around twenty of them. Like many of the best-known versions of Dylan’s songs they have all been ‘reimagined’ are played and sang by the multi-talented touring cast.
Nick Laine (played by Colin Connor) is the guest house proprietor. He is in debt and the bank is looking to foreclose on his property. He’s desperate to find a way out. His wife Elizabeth (Francis McNamee) is suffering from a form of dementia and is being cared for by Nick, their son Gene (Gregor Milne) and their adopted and five-months pregnant daughter Marianne (Justina Kehinde).
Their guests at the house include Mr and Mrs Burke (James Staddon and Rebecca Thornhill), their son Elias (Ross Carswell), Reverent Marlowe (Eli James), boxer Joe Scott (Joshua C Jackson) and Katherine Draper (Eve Norris) who is having an affair with Nick. The cast is completed by narrator and family physician Dr Walker (Chris McHallem) and local businessman, Mr Perry (Teddy Kempner), who is pursuing a one-sided interest in marrying Marianne.
The play was written and directed by Conor McPherson and since it’s launch in 2017 it’s toured the UK, the USA, Canada and Australia. Well-known actors who had roles in the initial run included Sheila Atim, Ciaran Hinds and Shirley Henderson. The cast of the current tour may not be so easily recognisable, but it’s hard to imagine the originals would perform any better on the night. Particular stand-outs for me were Connor (the glue holding the whole show together), McNamee (her singing stole the show) and Thornhill (who appears to be a talented drummer, as well as singer and actress).
This is a really enjoyable night out for anyone with a passing interest in the music of Bob Dylan. And to be honest even if you don’t you’ll enjoy the spectacle anyhow. There’s no promise of happy endings, just a slice of gritty realism from 1930s Midwest America with the musical sprinklings of Duluth Minessota’s most famous son on top.
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