Director Richard Carroll chats about the beauty of ‘Once’

The cast of Black Swan State Theatre Company’s upcoming production of the musical Once are ready to bring an engaging tale of a moment in time, lots of great music, and self-discovery to the stage this week.

Director Richard Carroll wowed audiences with his 2020 production of the classic musical Oklahoma! transforming Rogers and Hammerstein’s tale of cowpokes and damsels into a captivating commentary on violence and gender roles, this musical he says is a completely different kind of experience.

Once is such a beautiful show.” Carroll says during a break in the rehearsals. “Our production of Oklahoma was kind of bawdy and irreverent, queer and immersive. Once is all about showcasing the talents of these incredible actor-musicians.

“The key feat of the show is the actors, they’re all amazing actors, amazing singers, amazing people, but also really high standard musicians, guitarists, cellists, violinists, drummers, mandolin players. It’s really amazing to find people who can do all of it to such a high standard.” Carroll said.

The stage musical began life as a independent film from Ireland which built up a loyal following. It shares the story of a young man busking on an Irish street who meets a young Czech woman and their shared love music forms an emotional journey they embark on.

Following it’s success as a film, which included an Academy Award for it’s music, the work was adapted to become a stage production.

Carroll has directed a production of Once previously, but he shares that mounting this production has been a completely different experience, citing the collaboration with a new group of actors and musicians as bringing a unique feel to every production.

“It’s the simplify of the story.” Carroll says of what makes this show so magical. “It’s definitely the experience of watching them create music in front of your eyes, while acting and moving.”

“Oklahoma and Once are very different to show, but also they’ve got the same kind of story about two people who meet each other, and they have to teach each other how to be okay with being human, and being vulnerable, and being brave.

“The fact that living life to your full potential requires bravery, requires being okay with the possibility of failure, or humiliation, or disapproval from others. That was really the kind of journey that Laurey and Curly had in our production of Oklahoma, in the way we sort of queered that relationship, and it’s a journey. Going back to Once – it’s a really simple and moving story.

One striking element of the story is that neither of the protagonists have names, the script just refers to them as girl and guy, Carroll says the ambiguity of who these characters are gives the story a universal feeling.

“It’s just kind of universal. What’s nice about the characters of guy and girl not having names, is it sort of reflects the fact that you don’t know a huge amount about their lives before and after the story. We just kind of discover them. And it’s about the time they spent together. The show starts and they meet.

“I guess, that’s why it’s called Once because it’s sort of this thing that is just gonna happen at one time, this brief moment. The magic of what can happen between two people, the whole thing takes place over about four or five days.”

Black Swan Theatre Company’s production of Once runs until 12 June. Tickets are on sale now.

Graeme Watson

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