Review: Song From Far Away, Hampstead Theatre

Will Young makes an impressive return to the stage in the deeply moving Song From Far Away at the Hampstead Theatre

“It was then that I decided to write you these letters”

Kirk Jameson’s revival of Simon Stephens and Mark Eitzel’s Song From Far Away was first seen at HOME in Manchester earlier this year, featuring a return to the stage for singer Will Young. Premiered at the Young Vic back in 2015 with the remarkable Eelco Smits in an Ivo van Hove production that was almost impossibly sad, this monologue has a surprisingly different feel to it.

That’s not to say that it isn’t still heartbreaking. Young plays Willem, a gay banker who left his native Amsterdam for New York more than a decade ago and who is only returning now to deal with the complex range of emotions that accompany new of the death of his brother. Through letters and song, he revisits that relationship over a powerfully effective hour. 

Smits stripped back Willem, literally in many scenes, but Young goes more maximalist. Bigger, bolder, funnier, he feels more unafraid to show us the sharper, rougher edges of this guy, a essential part of his character as we’re frequently discovering the extent of his estrangement from his family, a hostility that is enduring now even in this time of grief.

The tenderness of Eitzel’s music, a song threaded throughout the show, offers an emotional counterpoint that points to a resolution that Willem (and we) knows will never come. Stephens’ canny writing means that we never fully understand why, so many crucial details held back, an air of inscrutability that simply adds to the considerable weight of this play.

Running time: 70 minutes (without interval)
Photo: Mark Senior
Song From Far Away is booking at Hampstead Theatre until 22nd July

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