Conor McPherson (Music & Lyrics by Bob Dylan): Girl from the North Country, The Old Vic, London (Director: Conor McPherson)
By Sascha Krieger
It’s probably the kind of phone call you never expect getting even when you’ve been an accomplished playwright for the better part of 20 years. When the record company of the most celebrated songwriter of the 20th century call, a man, who would go on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, a cultural icon, the stuff of legends and myths, appropriated or rejected by pretty much every social and cultural movement of the past 50 years, when they ask you if you’d be interested in using the man’s songs in an original play, what do you say? The initial response of Conor McPherson, a son of Dublin, Ireland, was no. Then he thought about it. And thought some more. And now, some four years later, the Girt from the North Country has been born on the stage of the Old Vic. So what’s to expect from a show built around Dylan’s prolific songbook? A musical weaving a this story around them to make them shine, Mamma-Mia-style? A glorified greatest hits concert with a bit of drama added to justify the ticket price? An attempt to filter a story out of the songs that tries to go beyond them but will always take second place? The answer is: none of the above. Girl from the North Country is a masterful play in its own right, conversing with the Minnesota bard’s music not being subservient to them, a symbiosis of play and songs, of words and music that turns out to be a lot more than the sum of its parts.