top of page

Review | Girl from the North Country | Lowry | 21/09/2022

Girl from the North Country centres around a family-owned guesthouse in Minnesota, in the midst of the great depression. The family in question are the Laine's, each with their own intricacies. A father in debt, a mother with dementia, an unemployed son with alcohol issues and an adopted daughter facing life in the 30's as a pregnant teen. Add to that a collection of wanderers finding shelter in the Laine's guesthouse against a soundtrack from the songbook of Bob Dylan.

How does Dylan's music suit the mood and feeling of the depression in America? Beautifully is the answer! Despite his music being written in a completely different era, it complements the 1930s aesthetic perfectly and is the real star of this show. This was cleverly aided by only using instruments that were around when the piece was set, only adding to the feeling of authenticity. The simplistic set worked better than any complex staging would have.

There were some stunning arrangements, performed exquisitely by a very strong cast. Standouts included Frances McNamee's faultless performance of 'Like A Rolling Stone' and the full cast performance of 'Hurricane'. Having such a large cast really gave power to the music when they sang as a collective.

If there is one thing that will come out of this show for me, it is the desire to dive into Dylan's back catalogue, whilst also adding a few songs from the show to my (ever growing) musical theatre playlist. Some of my favourite moments were when certain characters played musical instruments. I would have really loved to have seen much more of this, after seeing it done so well in Lizard Boy at the Hope Mill Theatre earlier this year.

What didn't work as well was the juxtaposition between the music and the stories themselves. Whilst undeniably the arrangements suit the time period, the music in no way drives the story forward. With Dylan's knack for telling a story through song, this was truly a wasted opportunity. As a result, this felt more like a play with enjoyable interruptions of music, rather than a musical.

I sit writing this review wondering who the girl from the north country actually was, as with so many stories being told, this was not clear. With story arcs around a number of interesting characters there was a lot to explore, dealing with issues of teen pregnancy, racism, disability and parenting. It almost felt as if they were trying to pack too much in to one show. As a result, I found it hard to truly care about many of the characters due to lack of consistent character development and too much going on overall. Perhaps if it had focused more heavily on one central story, it may have been easier to care more about the characters and follow the narrative more closely.

As someone not overly familiar with Dylan's work, there was always a risk that this would hamper my enjoyment. However, it was the music that I enjoyed most, even if not fully convinced that it always worked in parallel with the 'play'. The 'Girl from the North Country' remains at the Lowry until 24/09/2022. It then continues its UK tour well into 2023.


bottom of page