Song From Far Away ★★★★ Hampstead Theatre | Jun 28 - Jul 22, 2023


With Song From Far Away Simon Stephens and Mark Eitzel have written an eighty-minute monologue, which will resonate with anyone who has fractured family relationships. Here, they are further destroyed by the unexpected death of a sibling. Writing about bereavement is never easy and risks becoming mawkish, however, that is not the case in this instance. The show has a poetic undertone and keeps us constantly engaged. The protagonist, Willem, vividly details his other relationships as he struggles to reconnect with his parents. Helped by Kirk Jameson’s understated yet coherent direction, and Ingrid Hu’s stylish and effectively minimalist design, the ambiance is perfect for Will Young to skilfully draw us into the life of a man who has recently lost his brother. It can’t have been easy for Young who lost his own brother in 2020. We listen as Willem reads a letter he has written to the deceased Pauli. Many of us have felt the desire to communicate with someone suddenly lost to us, and the writing here catches that mood perfectly. Returning to a family one feels cut off from is never straightforward, and Willem’s uneasy relationship with his parents and sister is realistically brought to life. With his slightly fey but graceful delivery, Young never misses a beat; he is in turn louche, amusing, superficial and deadly serious. Throughout, he always remains a sympathetic figure. There are three short, but very beautiful, songs which Young delivers with a perfect pianissimo stillness as the set’s ceiling slowly descends to compress him. In less skilful hands this could become sentimental, but the casting of Will Young is a masterstroke, and he delivers a wonderfully nuanced and musical performance. Unsurprisingly, the audience roared its approval at the end; this may be a Song From Far Away, but it sings very close to our hearts.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by D.S.J.
Photo by Mark Senior

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