Review Round-Ups

Did the critics go for The Go-Between?

Roger Haines’ production opened at the Apollo Theatre to mixed reviews

The Go-Between
The Go-Between
© Johan Persson

Holly Williams, WhatsOnStage


"Michael Crawford… wanders around the scenes of his youth as he remembers it all, which Crawford makes appear less hammy than it sounds. His voice is still sweepingly emotive."

"It's not exactly clear how the story benefits from Richard Taylor and David Wood's musical version. Pretty, expressive accompaniment is proved by just a piano, played onstage, and while action and dialogue are sung, there are no big numbers, or even many delineated songs per se."

"While things begin to grip and twist in a tauter second half, it's too late to make this feel like anything more than a mild-mannered costume drama with singing."

Paul Taylor, The Independent


"Crawford, now 74, delivers a remarkably moving and sensitively sung performance as this desiccated protagonist, with the sad, penetrating gaze, apprehensively abandons his solitude and shadows the twelve year old self."

"The show unfolds as shimmering web of singing and dialogue – it's scored for a solitary on-stage grand piano from which Nigel Lilley coaxes rich orchestral colours – and the musical ideas don't often merge in what could traditionally be described as a "number". The glorious exception to this rule is "Butterfly" – a floaty, twirling song of exaltation."

"I can see why some might think that the show, with its silvery attic-of-memory set and its trapped, subjective atmosphere, verges on the precious at points. But, to me, it feels like a labour of love that, while faithful to the original, has a striking imaginative integrity in its own right."

Michael Billington, The Guardian


"Is LP Hartley’s 1953 novel a good subject for a musical? Mercifully, there are no dancing parlourmaids or rousing rural choruses in this elegant chamber version, and Richard Taylor’s score provides a rippling piano accompaniment to David Wood's adaptation."

"The evening rests heavily on Crawford and William Thompson (one of three boys playing Leo), who are excellent. Crawford, exuding a desiccated sadness, sings Taylor’s score beautifully and sculpts each line carefully, so that even a banal lyric such as "the colours were clearer the nearer I flew to her" achieves genuine poignancy."

"It is all done with taste and style. But although the text is shot through with references to Icarus, the story never quite flies because we cannot escape its catastrophic effect on the adult Leo. The novel, as so often, proves a foreign country; they do things differently there."

Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out


"The Go-Between is a perfectly tolerable night of entertainment, but there’s absolutely nothing to set the pulse racing: it feels like the perfect exemplar of how little the Brits have done to advance the musical genre since London Road five years ago."

"Roger Haines' production offers moody lighting, period costumes, a sung-through, light-on-the-hooks score, and Michael Crawford, hauled out of retirement to play the older Leo. In their way, all these things are problematic. There's a lack of big, stirring numbers; the period garb and small cast contributes to a general air of safeness."

"If you’re explicitly here to see Crawford you probably won’t mind, and it is great that somebody is writing new musicals with substantial roles for older performers. But beyond that, it’s difficult to see what the exact purpose of this muted, conservative show is."

Quentin Letts, Daily Mail


"If this sounds a little precious and cluttered, well, it is. The late-Victorian dialogue is arch; the chamber-drama style and silvery lighting accentuate a claustrophobic nostalgia. Yet there is an artistic ambition here that, by the end, I found admirable. And on Monday night young William Thompson was superb as the boy Leo, nearly upstaging the legendary Crawford."

"This complex evening will not suit all tastes but you leave the theatre touched by the beauty of lost promise."

The Go-Between runs at the Apollo Theatre until 15 October.