The Go-Between is a new West End musical at the Apollo Theatre, based on the LP Hartley novel of the same name and starring Michael Crawford.
The story of the Go Between is about Leo Colson, an old man reflecting on his past after randomly discovering a diary in an old trunk. As soon as the diary appears it’s clear that it holds some painful memories, and the trunk sits in the middle of the stage and acts as a sort of time-machine transporting the viewer to his childhood – a summer spent in the Norfolk countryside with the rich family of his schoolfriend – and the present, where he sits alone with only his thoughts and the ghosts of the past who continue to haunt him.
As the title implies, the young Leo Colson acted as a messenger between two people involved in an illicit affair; Marian, his friend sister and Ted, a nearby tenant farmer. It’s clear from the first few minutes of the play that things didn’t end well – so as the play unravels we witness Leo recount all those memories that have trapped him; being a teenager trapped between child and adulthood, first love, feeling out of place in the world, uncertainty about the future – these are all themes in the play that really hit home thanks to some excellent songs and music.
Although Mr Crawford is best known in theatre for Phantom of the Opera, the songs in this play couldn’t be farther away from that. The music in The Go-Between is courtesy of a single pianist who is present on the stage throughout the whole performance and there are no crazy musical number with dance troupes and catchy hooks – this is one man recounting his past in brutal honesty and the solo piano fits that perfectly.
Even though the entire play is filled with a sense of impending doom – even not knowing the plot beforehand it’s quite obvious things will end badly – there are still a few laughs to be had, mostly provided by conversations between young Leo and his more well to do friend Marcus. In fact the acting of the two boys playing Marcus and Leo really should be commended as their performances really are great.
Ultimately this play has a different feeling to other musicals I’ve seen. Although the music is important for me it only ever felt like a device to keep the story moving along – the real entertainment comes from the story itself, the dialogue and the way we transition between past and present. If you want to watch catchy showtunes then this isnt for you but if you want to seen a genuinly moving, bittersweet drama then this really is a great play to watch.