"A haunting new British musical"
-The Stage-

"Enthralling, beautifully textured"
-The Independent-

"A touching tale of lost promise"
-The Daily Mail-

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Genuinely moving both musically and dramatically

Critic Rating

6 June 2016, Apollo Theatre
Guest Reviewer Guest Reviewer
LP Hartley’s The Go-Between has longed been loved as a classic novel and was recently successfully adapted for television by the BBC, so it is unsurprising that a musical version has now arrived in the West End. Developed by Perfect Pitch and first seen in a regional tour in 2011, Richard Taylor and David Wood’s adaptation lands at the Apollo Theatre with the added bonus of Michael Crawford in the cast, steering this gentle musical memory play along its path.

Crawford plays Leo Colston, an elderly man whose emotionally repressed past is triggered by the discovery of a trunk in the attic, a chest full of artefacts that lead him back to the summer of 1900, a time when he turned thirteen and discovered just how harsh the world can be. Spending the summer with a much wealthier school-friend on their estate, Leo is seduced by the glamour and attentions of his friend’s older sister Marian, but she wants him to act as a messenger for her letters to the tenant farmer neighbour with whom she is in love, against her family’s wishes and expectations.

Leo acquiesces to her request, but the consequences of his actions haunt the entirety of his life and it is this struggle that forms the backbone of this musical, the push and pull of memory and unresolved guilt. Crawford’s older gentleman remains on stage for the entire show, bewildered and bewitched once again by the events of that climactic summer as it plays out in snatches of half-remembered scenes all around him, beautifully staged by Roger Haines with a graceful fluidity that is lovely to watch.

The ensemble swirl around both Leos, the younger version was played by Johnny Evans-Hutchinson at this performance, with an inventive physicality, whether staging a tumble from a haystack, menacing branches of deadly nightshade or the participants of a game of cricket. And it is an energy that is needed to help propel this dreamscape along, as there are moments where the production lingers a little too long, losing its dramatic impetus whilst its conjures up such atmosphere.

It’s easy to forgive such longueurs though as Richard Taylor’s score really is quite beautiful to listen to, following up on his deserved recent success with Flowers for Mrs Harris in Sheffield. Composed for solo piano, played stirringly by musical director Nigel Lilley, it swells and bursts with fragmented lyricism rather than traditional songs and the 11-strong company occasionally sing acapella in some stunning arrangements that echo achingly around time and space.

Evans-Huchinson and Archie Stevens as his pal Marcus both do excellent work given how much they have to do for young’uns, the strapping Stuart Ward and Stephen Carlile contrast well as the two men in Marion’s life, and Gemma Sutton is simply superb as Marion, an upper-class woman tragically aware of the impossibility of her love match yet incapable of stopping it, genuinely moving both musically and dramatically as we move ever closer to the inescapable denouement.

Crawford’s voice may not possess quite the sure-footedness it once did but its momentary frailties suit the role here. And whilst the gentle charm and downbeat emotion of The Go-Between will have its work cut out to reach a full audience night after night, the West End is a richer place for having it.

Reviewed by Ian Foster.

Mark Shenton
As delicate as it is delightful, The Go-Between isn't going to be to everyone's tastes. But it is a quiet triumph of determination and a true labour of love that, five years after its regional premiere under the developmental umbrella of Perfect Pitch, has finally arrived in the West End.
Paul Taylor
I can see why some might think that the show, with its silvery attic-of-memory set and its trapped, subjective atmosphere, verges on the precious at points. But, to me, it feels like a labour of love that, while faithful to the original, has a striking imaginative integrity in its own right.
Quentin Letts
This complex evening will not suit all tastes but you leave the theatre touched by the beauty of lost promise.
Michael Billington
It is all done with taste and style. But although the text is shot through with references to Icarus, the story never quite flies because we cannot escape its catastrophic effect on the adult Leo. The novel, as so often, proves a foreign country; they do things differently there.
Fiona Mountford
There’s the elegiac elegance of Richard Taylor’s music and book writer David Wood’s lyrics. There’s the elegiac elegance of two boys on the cusp of adolescence in a faraway time (beautifully played last night by William Thompson and Archie Stevens) aping the behaviour of a rigid adult world that they don’t understand.
Dominic Cavendish
Gemma Sutton plays Marian, whose mask of good nature begins dropping as she becomes more coercive and desperate. The fact that she seems relatively ordinary to us but is so remarkable to little Leo slips to the heart of the story’s quiet profundity. Worth a look, then, but not queuing round the block to see.