MUSICAL ONCE Edinburgh Playhouse, Tue 26–Sat 30 May
Once is finally embarking on a major national tour after success in the West End, Dublin and Broadway. Critically acclaimed for adapting the popular romantic film with a distinctive musical theatricality that escapes from the jukebox format, it adds a free-flowing dynamism to an emotional story of two lovers meeting in Dublin. Daniel Healy, both a musician and actor, has been involved with the show ‘for seven years, on and off. I loved the film, and playing the male lead, Guy, is kind of the holy grail of actor- musician jobs!’ Healy’s enthusiasm for the show doesn’t just come from the combination of his two parallel careers, but for what he sees as a ‘universal story’ with a timeless, aspirational message.
‘At the start, there is a big Irish jam,’ he
says. ‘We kind of lull you in with a false sense of security. It has funny moments, but like any good work of art it has many emotions. It happens to be about two people who share their love for each other and also for music, but it’s also about following your dreams.’ Between the passionate romance, the songs and the warm atmosphere, Healy recognises the play’s impact on the audience. ‘I see grown men crying,’ he notes. ‘People are left changed in some kind of way, whether it is subtle or obvious. People have such an emotional reaction to it because it reminds you of what you are meant to be doing, whatever that may be.’ (Gareth K Vile)
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POLITICAL COMEDY MRS PUNTILA AND HER MAN MATTI Reviewed at Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh; run ended lllll R E V I E W
The influence of Bertolt Brecht’s epic theatre – a rejection of tragedy as deterministic and conservative – can be felt across Scottish theatre, from Dominic Hill’s eclectic and distinctive dramaturgy to the National Theatre of Scotland’s revival of The Cheviot, The Stag and the Black, Black Oil. Adapting Brecht’s work, with a gender swap and a nod to the contemporary tyranny of landowners, Denise Mina’s script goes directly to the source and shapes a modern satire that revolves around the mercurial moods of Mrs Puntila. Compassionate when drunk, yet brutal when sober, Elaine C Smith’s Puntila is driven by greed and alcoholism.
Yet despite an imposing set from Tom Piper, strong ensemble performances, lively transitions in atmosphere and style, including leaps from dialogue to song, and a passionate finale condemning financial oppression, Murat Daltaban’s direction is more pantomime than incisive political critique. Brecht’s intention to demonstrate the inevitability of capitalism is replaced by broad, crowd-pleasing polemic and Smith’s charisma prevents Puntila, except in the last moments, from being a self- evident villain.
Even in her sober cruelty, she is witty, and the central conflict, in which her man Matti explains why he could not marry her daughter Eva, lacks resonance, not least due to the lack of romantic chemistry between Matti and Eva. With caricatures as characters and a finale which suddenly injects a political clarity lacking in the earlier scenes, Mrs Puntila is a disappointment. This updating of epic theatre relies more on strong performances than Brecht’s insistence on work that provokes meaningful change. (Gareth K Vile)
96 THE LIST 1 Apr–31 May 2020