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Once (Phoenix Theatre)

A year on from its West End premiere, is ''Once'' still pulling the heart strings?

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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© Brinkhoff/Moegenburg

There's a new 'Guy' in town and he goes by the name of Arthur Darvill, fans of Doctor Who will know him as the Last Centurion. Taking over from Declan Bennett, who left the show to join the cast of EastEnders, Darvill has injected a new intensity to an already hyper-emotional production.

As Michael Coveney reported in his original review of Once, the story itself is not this show's pièce de résistance; "Dublin busker meets Czech married mother, fixes her hoover, falls in love on the rebound and makes melancholic music with her in the back room of a piano store."

The heart of this show is in the exploration of love through both the music and the emotional connection between Guy (Darvill) and Girl (Zrinka Cvitešić).

Having had a year to settle into her part, Cvitešić completely owns her role, which has become more playful and shines with Czech chutzpah. This additional level to her character, makes her performance of "The Hill" even more spine-tingling.

Zrinka's performance is further complimented by her new leading man. Darvill is no stranger to the role, having played Guy in the Broadway production last year and performed "Falling Slowly" at the 2013 Tony Awards. His Guy is played with more sensitivity and self deprecation than Bennett's brash portrayal and it is a shame that he is only with the production for eight weeks.

The über talented ensemble of actor-musicians has also seen new additions with stand-out performances by Mathew Hamper (Andre) and Matthew Ganley (Svec), the latter recently told me he learnt the ukulele for this role, only to be told that he would in fact be playing the mandolin and banjo in the show.

Once is a toe-tapping, heartbreaking, soul-searching story of music, love and companionship, that will have you reaching for the Kleenex on more than one occasion.

Watch our exclusive interview Arthur Darvill:

See Zrinka and Arthur performing numbers from the show:


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