Girl from the North Country

Girl from the north country state theatre SA 2022GWB Entertainment with Sydney Festival, Damian Hewitt & Trafalgar Entertainment Group, Runaway Entertainment, and State Theatre Company South Australia. 1 Apr 2022


Bob Dylan: Nobel Laureate for Literature; folk poet muso of the 60s and civil rights supporter; the Great Depression; brutal racism of 1930s America. From this pot of history original Writer/Director Conor McPherson has created a brutally beautiful, poetic piece of performance defying accepted parameters of ‘musical theatre’, most particularly the idea such works need to be razzle dazzle sugar hits of feel good high gloss extravaganza.


For the Adelaide season Resident Director Corey McMahon, with assistance from associate director Kate Budgen and creative team have achieved something extraordinary for a large scale production and performance space. Intimacy. The kind of emotional intimacy between audience and performers favoured by little, human spaces such as the famed Belvoir Street Theatre of Sydney, Melbourne’s Butterfly Club or Adelaide’s Bakehouse Theatre and Holden Street Theatres.


McPherson’s profoundly human play offers a disparate gathering of lost, lonely, poor and hopeless humans of the 1930s in a room for rent hostel barely holding its head above water financially.


Into the stories of this ragged group McPherson weaves Dylan’s songs in a manner uniquely appropriate to the history of the Depression era, with arrangements by Simon Hale extraordinary for infusions of Gospel alongside pop and the familiar folk inflections so particular to Bob Dylan’s opus. The band, strategically settled upstage-left by McMahon, are a ghostly presence who waft in and out of the performance space, holding musical court with quiet, authoritative dignity.


The marriage of a song writer whose works epitomise struggle, protest, hope and sustained suffering in an almost supernatural timelessness is easily matched by McMahon’s ensemble and his smooth, ever so gentle direction.


A gentleness subtly supported and developed by Mark Henderson’s lighting, Rae Smith’s intelligently flexible set design and Movement Director Lucy Hind’s soft, fluid choreography focused totally on heart felt action and response overlaid with a light dusting of grief.


What a magnificent cast. In performance and song this ensemble is so powerful in their ability to bring the raw, wounded spirt of the hostel’s inhabitants to life, delineating with care individual stories, motivations and struggle under the sheer weight of the vicious world they face.

In performance and song, Peter Kowitz as hostel owner Nick Laine, Lisa McCune as his wife Elizabeth, James Smith as son Gene and Chemon Theys as Marianne serve as a magnificent central core to the production’s wide ranging exploration of hard brutal life choices and savage dark secrets.

Swirling around this core, Terence Crawford as narrator/Dr Walker, Christina O’Neill as boarder Mrs Neilson, Peter Carroll as hard hearted wealthy neighbour Mr Perry, Grant Piro as self-styled shyster Reverend Marlowe, Tony Cogin and Helen Dallimore as Mr and Mrs Burke with Blake Erickson as their disabled son Elias, along with Elijah Williams as black boxer Joe Scott, and Elizabeth Hay as Gene’s lost love round out McMahon's rich, critically compassionate evocation of a slice of American history dripping in unforgiving tragedy


David O’Brien


When: 25 Mar to 10 Apr

Where: Her Majesty’s Theatre