The Go-Between review - June 2016

something missing in this rather strange delivery

It seems that British musicals are the current West End fad, first with Mrs Henderson Presents and now with a long-awaited arrival of LP Hartley's 1953 novel-turned-musical The Go-Between, which recently received a charming page-to-screen debut with the BBC. But although there are moments of genuine poignancy scattered throughout Roger Haines' production, there seems to be something missing in this rather strange delivery of the beloved tale.

The Go-Between has long been in the pipeline, playing at several UK venues since 2011, before landing in London. Michael Crawford's anticipated return to a leading West End role firmly cements his belonging on stage. An effortlessly watchable presence, he remains on stage throughout, watching his younger self travel back to a particular summer in Norfolk that has haunted him for the entirety of his life.

It's a sweet, if not predictable, storyline, as we see young Leo Colston act as a messenger between forbidden lovers, who are divided by their class. Michael Pavelka's intriguing set provides a wonderfully abstract backdrop for the action, with a grand piano situated in the corner and a handful of chairs that are manipulated to great effect. One downside is that there's a lot of clunky stepping up and down on the chairs, no doubt in an attempt to create some diverse pictures on an otherwise flat stage.

the go between

More of a play with music, The Go-Between sits somewhere in between being a wonderfully refreshing genre and a particularly odd rendition of Hartley's novel. The ensemble loom over Crawford with a sinister presence, which is more bizarre than effective when accompanied by overbearingly insistent operatic tones. A moment of respite was Crawford's heart-wrenchingly poignant “Butterfly” which leaves you fumbling for a tissue.

The Go-Between allows its child actors to shine, in this performance Leo and his school-friend Marcus played by an irresistible William Thompson and a remarkably professional Archie Stevens. The two carry the show to great success, and are a welcome breath of air in an otherwise heavy production. Gemma Sutton shines once again as the in-love Marian, her lovely voice giving the music a real lift.

Unfortunately there is slightly too much singing, slightly too much movement and slightly too much length in this very one-level play. Despite the predictable storyline, you sit and hope for some sort of climax that never arrives. Similarly to Mrs Henderson Presents, The Go-Between is another case of the actors preceding the material, simply proving how difficult it is to write a successful musical nowadays.


Reviewed by Susannah Rose Martin.
6 June 2016, Apollo Theatre