The musical genre does not sit well with me. It feels utterly uncomfortable the way actors all of a sudden start singing on stage at the end of a perfectly conventional conversation with other characters. It feels awkward and most of the times it feels like the plot is an excuse to introduce the music. It is like opera gone wrong. And the singing style is all strutting and showing off of some starlet’s vocal range. Though I find it utterly boring, the audience just love it. I am not sure what I expected from the Girl from the Northern Country, for sure not a musical, but a play featuring Bob Dylan’s songs, I did not realise that it would feature some of Dylan’s best-known songs, including Like a Rolling Stones alongside some more obscure ones all taken from his back catalogue. I resented that at times the play was overly sentimental, I was not impressed to say the least that at times Bob Dylan’s music was given the Disney-style musical treatment, making it utterly unrecognisable, but again Dylan’s rendition of his own music over the years has made the songs utterly unrecognisable, you would think he has kind of rewritten them every time he performs them anew. So, all things considered, the Girl from the North Country is not as mind blowing or revolutionary as I hoped it would be, nevertheless it is an interesting rendition of a story probably told too many times: a story of poverty, debt and rape set in Duluth, the city Bob Dylan himself hails from. It felt as if Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Man had been turned into a musical, moreover gender and race issues are treated with kid’s gloves, simplified or pre-digested for the sensitive minds of the new millennium. Good but not excellent, well sung, if you like the style, well choreographed, well-acted, Girl from the North Country ticks all the boxes of polite social analyses but it is stuck in the politically correct comfort zone, we are all in this together sort of feeling, pigeon hole. It is just so unlike Dylan’s music, so unreal and uncomfortably so.
Girl from the North Country – Old Vic Theatre London 21 July 2017