The Go-Between

Theatre, West End
2 out of 5 stars
3 out of 5 stars
(9user reviews)
 (© Johan Persson)
1/5
© Johan PerssonGemma Sutton,Michael Crawford, William Thompson
 (© Helen Maybanks)
2/5
© Helen MaybanksJenni Bowden, Issy van Randwyck, Gemma Sutton, Stuart Ward, Luka Green
 (© Helen Maybanks)
3/5
© Helen MaybanksIssy van Randwyck
 (© Helen Maybanks)
4/5
© Helen MaybanksSamuel Menhinick, Luka Green
 (© Johan Persson)
5/5
© Johan PerssonGemma Sutton, William Thompson, Michael Crawford

Michael Crawford is the big draw in this glum musical version of the classic novel

Can ‘Hamilton’ hurry up and come over here, pretty please? ‘The Go-Between’ is a perfectly tolerable night of entertainment, but there’s absolutely nothing in it to set the pulse racing: it feels like the perfect exemplar of how little the Brits have done to advance the musical genre since ‘London Road’ five years ago.

David Wood and Richard Taylor’s musical is a smart, compact and downcast chamber piece that is of course adapted from LP Hartley’s classic 1953 novel about Leo Colston, an old man looking back on the events of a remarkable summer that scarred him for life as a boy. 

Roger Haines’s production offers moody lighting, period costumes, a sung-through, light-on-the-hooks score and Michael Crawford, hauled out of retirement to play the elderly Leo.

In their way, all these things are problematic. There’s a lack of big, stirring numbers; the period garb and small cast contributes to a general air of safeness; the excessive gloom feels misjudged. 

In building a show around 74-year-old star Crawford, ‘The Go-Between’ loses much of the book’s innocence. As almost everything is a flashback to the summer of 1900, the elderly Leo must wander through it like a ghost, shadowing his younger self – ably played on press night by William Thompson – sighing out regret at events still to come. Having the big star continually singing the equivalent of ‘EVEYTHING’S GOING TO TURN TO SHIT LATER’ for two-and-a-half hours kills any sense of joy or childish excitement in Leo’s adventures, which are, after all, pretty innocent at first, as he naively acts as ‘postman’ between Gemma Sutton’s Marian and her clandestine working-class lover Ted (Stuart Ward). This focus on Leo’s grief also means other strands of the book – notably its comment on the class system – feel relatively played down.

If you’re explicitly here to see Crawford you probably won’t mind, and it is great that somebody is writing new musicals with substantial roles for older performers. But beyond that, it’s difficult to see what is the exact purpose of this muted, conservative show.

Average User Rating

3.3 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:1
  • 4 star:4
  • 3 star:2
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:1
LiveReviews|9
1 person listening
tastemaker

I found the play a little on the long winded side! All the acting was good and impressive, but the storyline was just too long and depressing. I didn't expect much from this show since I didn't read the book, but I hope they can make it a little more uplifting and shorter in the future. I'm not an aficionado of plays, so that's just from an opinion of a regular non-frequent-theatre-goer.  

tastemaker

My mom and I really enjoyed this performance a few weeks ago. We thought it was cleverly adapted into a musical with the appropriate balance between powerful and emotional singing, and an easy to follow narrative. The child actors were absolutely amazing, and they definitely captured our hearts with their antics on stage. I had never heard of the book prior to watching this, but the storyline was so powerful it completely enthralled me and drew me in, I can't wait to read the book now. I think Michael Crawford did a stellar job and I would really recommend this to all who are looking for a more emotional slow-unravel theatre performance, as it's a little different, but definitely enjoyable. 


Honestly don't know where to start with how disappointing this was. My sister's a big fan of the book, so I took her along for what I thought would be an amazing production (it stars the original Phantom, damn it!) but we were both utterly perplexed by what they've done with it. 


Firstly, why is it a musical? The musical numbers are vague, unstructured and unmemorable (though distinctly jarring at the time) at best and downright cringey at worst.Secondly, it's way too slow to the point of boredom. Thirdly, poor Michael Crawford. He's a legend and they've given him a part that involves reading a diary, getting in everyone's way on stage and trying to hit notes that are too high for him. 


If you like the book, or Michael Crawford, don't see this. Stay at home and read 'The Go Between' or watch 'Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em' instead.


Although I enjoyed this show to some extent I thought it was just the wrong choice of story for a musical. The music was excellent as was the singing and acting but there were moments when it really dragged because the story was interpreted in a very sentimental way. Fans of Michael Crawford will enjoy it for the novelty of seeing him play a new role in a major West End show but I personally got tired of his dewy eyed nostalgia after a while. The young actors playing Leo and Marcus are really watchable, fun and energetic characters and the crumbling grandeur of the set was a perfect setting for the heartbreaking tale of unrequited love. Those who have read the book will find this saccharine version of the story dissatisfying however, musical reduces it from an intense psychological drama to a slightly repetitive melodrama.

tastemaker

I went because I wanted to see Michael Crawford on stage. AGAIN. After all these years in a role that is not Phantom. I was pleasantly surprised!


Charming, sweet and nostalgic. The start was pretty slow but once the momentum picked up, it filled the the theatre with joy and nostalgia.


The story was very much about class and The Otherness - dark and sinister - but told from the innocent eyes or diary of Leo. It was the summer of his life. Three weeks of perfection.

Leo fell in love, was privy to what life was like for adults - trusted with secrets and in his sweetness, embraced his new role with gutso, curiosity, pride and charm.


I was charmed especially by Young Leo who was delightful. His singing and acting utterly brilliant. I look forward to more by him in the future.


Michael Crawford didn't disappoint. Gemma Sutton's Marion was radiant. Stuard Ward played a very rogue and hunky Ted Burgess - who is sweet, conflicted and absolutely in love.



Tastemaker

I went to see this show with absolutely no knowledge of the story beforehand, having neither heard of the book or the film and, in fact, didn't even know the story. So I came with no expectation and was pleasantly surprised by the musical that unfolded before me; a tale that was easy to follow, sweet, sensitive and funny at times.

The Go Between is based on a plot as old as time - two lovers from different classes have to hide their affair and liaise in secret. But the difference in this story is the addition of a young boy, Leo - visiting the 'big house' for the summer and smitten with Marian, the young lady of the house, one of the pair of lovers - who subsequently acts as messenger between the couple, innocent of the clandestine meetings he is enabling.

The whole story is told as a memory by the older Leo, played with full emotion and beautiful, poignant singing, by Micheal Crawford, who is often present on the stage 'recalling' his memories and, sometimes, even challenging them face to face with his younger self.

The relationship between Leo, his friend Marcus (younger brother of the beautiful Marian) and his family, is warm, delightful and often funny. It skips rather lightly over class snobbery and divide and instead focuses on the affair itself and the Leo's part in it, eventually revealing why it leaves such a scar on him in adulthood....


Overall The Go Between is a fine play, with simple but effective staging, an excellent cast and an even more excellent main star, the young Leo, but it lacks star quality itself. The music is warbling and drags at times and many of the lines could have been spoken, rather than crooned. There were no great songs or stand out scenes and therefore, although a delightful story, to me this show would work best off West End and can't justify a price tag of over £75 for seats in the stalls.


Tastemaker

I have to say I'm quite surprised I'm giving this four stars, because I never expected to. The thought of The Go Between, as a play, let alone a musical, didn't work in my head. However, I actually very much enjoyed it. The story line is so sinister and dark, there's this awful sense of foreboding throughout. 


The boy playing young Leo was absolutely outstanding, far better in song and acting than I think I've ever seen a kid be on stage - so bravo to him. The rest of the cast were reasonable, I felt Ted Burgess's accent was very rogue (Devon, Norfolk, Yorkshire, Northern Irish, who knows?) but he brought a sweetness to the role that I hadn't felt for him in the book when I read it at school.


My downsides to it are that there a lot of scenes where we probably didn't need Michael Crawford on stage, because you don't need a reminder 24/7 that it's his memories, it's very clear from the outset. That said, he really is wonderful and the sadness he brings to the role was touching. Some of the mime scenes didn't work for me - I would have preferred a more built out, traditional set but that's perhaps just my liking. 


Tastemaker

I was in the other English set at school that didn’t study the Go Between. Since then I have successfully avoided reading it. So, going to see the Go Between, I was going in blind to the story. Not a Scooby.

The Go Between is a coming of age tale seen through the eyes of a refreshingly naive 12 year called Leo. It’s particularly refreshing in our digital age. This is a chamber piece, not a rip roaring West End musical you might be used to.

The show opens with Leo, 60 years plus, chancing upon the diary he wrote whilst summering in Norfolk. He is haunted by what he remembers. We are then transported back to the hot summer of 1900. Leo spends the summer with his school friend Marcus and his family in their manor house. It starts as a summer of sun and fun but soon turns lonely when Marcus comes down with the measles. What follows is a story of crossed lovers and Leo’s role as a ‘go between’, delivering letters between the Marian and Ted, her farmer lover, culminating in a heart-breaking ending. A love lost. A life not lived.

Don’t expect big stage numbers or set pieces. The ‘band’ is made up of one grand piano. The staging is clever using simple effects to create different spaces. It is an ensemble piece with a very strong cast. The two boys who play Leo and Marcus were superb. But best of all is seeing living legend Michael Crawford on stage. He is spine-tingling good and you know you are seeing something special. You can’t not be moved by him; his voice and the emotional whack his performance gives.

If you’re looking for a feel good, dancing in the aisles type night, then this isn’t for you. The Go Between is an atmospheric love story beautifully told by a talented cast. It even has a ‘Mr Darcy’ moment in it to make you swoon. It’s worth a gander. 


The story is beautifully told and nostalgia filled. The choral arrangements are haunting and so rich that it is easy to forget that a piano is the sole accompanist. The cast is simply outstanding.Michael Crawford was good, but the two boys Leo (William Thompson) and Marcus (Archie Stevens) were brilliant - so much so that I was disappointed that Marcus didn’t get his own curtain call. Gemma Sutton was also stunning as Marian, with a beautiful soprano voice. There simply wasn’t a weak link. In this musical, song and story telling melded so seamlessly and atmospherically.No one song stood out, but it didn’t need to.It was impossible not to be drawn in as the pace accelerated and the story reached its climax in the second half.A class act!