As the adult Leo Colston reluctantly re-opens his childhood journal the ghosts of his past literally engulf him on stage. From this moment Leo becomes the ghost, stalking his own recollections of a tumultuous summer in 1900 spent living with the wealthy family of his school friend Marcus in rural Norfolk. So begins David Wood and Richard Taylor's musical adaptation of LP Hartley's romantic novel, the story of an innocent boy irrevocably damaged by his ill-fated desire to be accepted by two lovers whose primary interest in him is as a conduit for their illicit affair.
As a musical piece it is not entirely successful. At its best it echoes the conversational libretto of Sondheim, but on occasion it feels lost somewhere between operetta and modern musical. Clearly defined songs largely give way to sung dialogue, beautifully accompanied by composer Taylor's piano nestling organically amid Michael Pavelka's evocative set which resembles a neglected hall one might expect to find on the wreck of the Titanic.
In the programme Taylor cites a creative reasoning behind where and when the music is used, yet there are still moments where the singing feels incongruous to the action. Conversely there is an emotionally charged scene near the end of the show where the aging Leo is reunited with a key character from his childhood which is ripe for musical accompaniment but falls strangely flat with only spoken dialogue.
The cast members however are uniformly excellent with not a weak link among them. Particular praise goes to James Staddon who, despite spending periods quietly reacting to his unlocked memories playing out before him, anchors the whole production with his considerable physical and vocal presence.
The Go-Between runs at the West Yorkshire Playhouse until 1 October 2011.