Girl from the North Country | Chichester Festival Theatre | Review

Girl from the North Country

Chichester Festival Theatre

24th – 28th January 2023

As Artistic Director Daniel Evans’ tenure draws to a close to take up his new position of co Artistic Director of the RSC, the Board have recently announced Justin Audibert (currently Artistic Director of the Unicorn Theatre London) will be leading the Chichester Festival Theatre into its 7th decade. Daniel of course had the unenviable task of manipulating his way through the unprecedented pandemic and lockdown periods but he is handing over the theatre in a healthy state with ticket sales almost back to pre-pandemic levels.

Meanwhile the winter touring season continues and this week we are treated to Girl from the North Country. First performed in London 2017 and now touring the UK until mid March.

Written and directed by Irish playwright, Director and Screenwriter Conor McPherson, this play is punctuated with Bob Dylan’s back catalogue. Set in a guesthouse during the Depression in the 1930’s in Dylan’s own birthplace Duluth, Minnesota. A broad spectrum of diverse, lonely and tortured characters are brought together, all individually facing one misfortune after another until finally the bank forecloses on the property and this collection of broken souls go their separate ways.

The combination of this talented ensemble of some 20 actors and musicians with an imaginative creative team ensure justice is done to the atmospheric and soulful playlist.

Frances McNamee is outstanding in her role as the demented Elizabeth Laine both for her acting and vocal skills. Good support too from Ross Carswell making his professional debut as the mentally challenged Elias Burke, and Justina Kehinde playing unattached and pregnant Marianne Laine. Eve Norris shines with her sensitive and emotional rendition of I Want You.

This is a sympathetic and astutely observed insight into a harsh and challenging period of history, shot through with both obscure and classic musical numbers including Like a Rolling Stone from the great Bob Dylan.

Best wishes to the outgoing Artistic Director Daniel Evans in his new venture and a warm welcome to the incoming Artistic Director Justin Audibert. May CFT continue to pioneer new works and retain its highly acclaimed reputation as the power house of the south.


Reviewer: Jill Lawrie