Once… A treasured film brought to the West End

It’s always interesting to see a story you already love presented in a different way. I was thrilled when I was given tickets to see Once at The Phoenix Theatre in London’s West End for my birthday because I was already a huge fan of the film.

Declan Bennett and Zrinka Cvitešić as Guy and Girl respectively in Once the musical

Declan Bennett and Zrinka Cvitešić as Guy and Girl respectively in Once the musical

You see I watched the 2007, low-budget Irish movie on DVD until I feared the TV might explode. I cried at the on-screen music shop rendition of Falling Slowly while clutching a glass of wine when I was sad. I marvelled at how wonderful love can be as I watched Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova play out this subtle tale of devotion to the backdrop of some really incredible music. So, you can probably imagine that I was interested (if not a little worried) when I saw it was coming to the stage…

Well… I’m glad to say… it was wonderful.

Once the musical

Once the musical

Within about 15-minutes I was in tears, which has to be a record, even for me (I mean seriously, fifteen bloody minutes?!!). ***PACK TISSUES GUYS***.

To hear Falling Slowly live was something else. The singing and musicianship was in my opinion as stunning as it is in the movie itself.

The set was simple but hugely effective, in fact one of the most unusual things about this show was that we walked in to find the cast casually playing music on stage and ‘hanging out’ before that seamlessly turned into the start of the show itself. It made a nice change to eating all the Maltesers too early out of boredom.

The plot had been given just the right amount of that West End treatment without in any way harming the gentle nature of this delicate love story between Guy and Girl in Dublin.

Declan Bennett’s voice was perfect. Phoebe Fildes’ vocals were gorgeous. The chemistry between them was a joy to watch, just as it was with Glen and Marketa. The smaller characters too shone brightly, and were all memorable and entertaining. It’s a very good sign when a couple of weeks after seeing a show you can still picture all the characters and remember their voices.


Once the musical was everything I hoped it would be and more. For those who love the film’s music, just being there and hearing those precious songs come to life with guitars, violins, cellos, drums, a piano and goodness knows how many other instruments really is worth it, and that’s before you even get to the great performance of this stunning love story.

Go and see it, you won’t regret it (but watch the film too if you haven’t already)!

From novels to scripts…

Some of you may know that I am studying with the Open University when not writing books.

I started the course after finishing my senior journalism qualifications because I was keen for a new challenge. This can be tough going, but I’m glad I took it on.

My degree so far has involved reading texts, plays and other course materials set by the university. This year however, my course is much more practical, and involves writing for film, radio and television.

Even though I opted into this, it was a decision made with trepidation. I was looking over the course description, knowing it was the right thing to do, while feeling that tiny spark of  ‘Uh oh….. I have no bloody idea what I’m doing’ anxiety.

As writing books is my usual vehicle for creativity, I’m finding this part of my course particularly challenging. When it comes to novels I can write and write for hours. It’s something I’m familiar with, and I feel relatively comfortable doing it as long as I’m all set with the plot and characters.

But script writing, in whatever medium, has been particularly difficult but in the most positive way. The scripts have to be set out a certain format. There are different rules and conventions here, which for me as a writer of long stories was initially like having my wings clipped. I wasn’t very happy about it. How, how, how was I going express all this stuff with just a few lines of dialogue?

Everything changes in script writing. For radio you have to tell a story primarily through sound and dialogue, with none of the long paragraphs dripping in visual imagery that I delight in writing. For film, you have to think of the kinds of shots to use to tell your story, and a long text of thousands of words can be cut significantly to make a scene of just seconds or minutes.

I’ve even had a go at putting a section of my debut novel This is a Love Story into a film script format (I cannot tell you how much I would like to develop this further…). I can’t say it was easy, but a brilliant way to open my mind as a writer to various ways something can be expressed.

Anyway, clearly I’m feeling super inspired by this. It’s great to be introduced to new ways of story telling. The Open University is a brilliant way to study that I would recommend to anyone.

I’m a big fan of TV comedy/sitcoms, from The Mighty Boosh to Girls and Spaced. I’m watching everything from a different viewpoint, picking it apart, and really thinking about how it was created and why everything is done as it is. It’s an exciting thing to learn new methods, even if I am just at the tip of the iceberg of a highly-skilled way of working.

I’d like to hear from fellow writers of novels. Have you written books or long stories and tried turning your work into a script or excerpt for the radio? How have you found it?

My studies are far from being a series of educational hoops I have to jump through in order to achieve an end result. They have turned into something that I hope will influence and inspire future projects and ideas.