Grief is a notoriously tricky subject to write about. Its deeply personal nature can make it somewhat elusive. However, Songs From Far Away (directed by Kirk Jameson) manages to capture the complexity of feelings of those left behind to mourn.
Written by Olivier Award winner Simon Stephens (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night–Time) and Mark Eitzel, this one-man show tells the story of 34 year old Wilelm (Will Young). He has made a life for himself in New York when the sudden death of his younger brother Pauli, calls him back home to Amsterdam.
Willelm keeps the world at a distance, wearing headphones when he’s outside but never listening to music, opting instead to focus on the sounds of his own breathing. He feels more at home in the airport lounge with strangers than he does with his grieving family.
Will Young skilfully draws the audience in and holds their attention for the duration of the show. His performance never waivers or lags and he transitions seamlessly from vulnerability to rage to careful detachment – all in the Dutch affected English of someone who has lived in America for some years.
His is an honest and impressive performance that shows raw emotion and real talent. The grief and rootlessness Willelm feels often borders on uncomfortable, but the tension is always under cut by a joke or a wry smile that leaves the audience endeared. It is no small feat to monologue for eighty minutes, but Young delivers an authentic and intimate portrayal of a man feeling things deeply despite his best efforts.
Manchester-based Kirk Jameson’s (The Distance You Have Come) direction allows for the quality of the script and storytelling to speak for itself. It is clear that Jameson has a great deal of trust in Will Young as a performer and the show itself. Every element is cohesive and executed seamlessly, working in tandem to deliver a poignant and personal production.
The set design (Ingrid Hu) feels both intimate and impersonal, being deceptively simple and incredibly effective; evoking the airport bars and hotel rooms Willelm speaks so fondly of. Will Young moves through the space naturally, with practiced ease.
The lighting (Jane Lalljee) is a huge part of what makes Song From Far Away so impactful. It echoes the sentiments of the dialogue and seems to distill the emotions discussed. It perfectly reflects what is happening on stage and lends an ethereal quality to the production as a whole.
As the title suggests, music is a key theme in Song From Far Away. Composed and arranged by Paul Schofield, the gentle piano moves the story along organically, adding depth and emotion to key moments. The consistency of the score creates a theme throughout the show that grounds the story, while also highlighting Young’s performance.
Song From Far Away is a meditation on grief that speaks to the complexities of family relationships and dynamics. It explores how tragedy can upset these dynamics and force each of us to look within and reflect on the choices we make.
Song From Far Away is at Home until Saturday 11th March. Tickets can be booked here