Ian Waller enjoys a evening of wonderful music and story telling

There was something very different about this visit to the theatre – I really had no idea of what to expect. I’m a theatre regular – Bath has so many great options available and the choice of productions is generally excellent. However, Once at the Theatre Royal Bath was very much my wife’s call and to be honest, I knew absolutely nothing about the production at all before taking my seat in the Royal Circle.

Straight away a scene was being set before the audience. I really like this trend for productions to invite the audience into the action while they’re still taking their seats. For Once, this meant a music shop setting being gradually inhabited, first with a lady cleaning the tables, then musicians arriving one at a time and jamming with each other on guitars, fiddles, Irish pipes and drums.

The result was that by the time all of the audience was settled and focused, we were already gripped by the action on the stage and loving the Irish folk music that was entertaining us. Blimey, these actors were also very fine musicians as well – in fact, I’d have been happy to listen a good while longer and wait for the story to start.

Emma Lucia as Girl and Daniel Healy as Guy. Photo credit Mark Senior

Once the story does break through, we are introduced to Guy (Daniel Healy), a busker keen to sing his latest song but also clearly heartbroken enough to want to leave his guitar behind and walk away. It’s left to Girl (Emma Lucia) to help him rediscover his love for music, and with it his love for life, as their own relationship blossoms to a background of beautifully performed songs and instrumentals.

The result is quite simply joyous. Yes, in general the story is nothing new, but the performances – both dramatic and musical – are so full of life and talent that you can’t help love every second. The cast are, without exception, exceptional. With many swapping instruments along the way, singing, even occasionally breaking into jaunty dance steps, you just want to get out of your seat, find that music shop in Dublin and join in the fun.

Yes, the language is a good bit fruity, which means you might want to cover the ears of younger family members, but it also comes across as totally relevant to the production.

There’s also that song, Falling Slowly, which you will most likely recognise, that’s runs as a theme throughout the story, and if you can walk away from the theatre at the end of the evening and not be singing it to yourself, I’ll be amazed.

What a wonderful evening at the Theatre Royal Bath. Now it’s time to dig out my guitar and have a go myself…

Once at the Theatre Royal Bath runs until 7 March. Tickets are available at https://www.theatreroyal.org.uk/