Holding the attention of an audience on your own for 80 minutes is a tall order. Even with the most engrossing of stories (as Song From Far Away is), it still takes serious levels of charisma to make it work, particularly when portraying a character that is, at times, not very likeable.

Will Young manages all of the above with aplomb. Never wavering, always in control, he saunters across the stage with a calm assurance, immediately drawing the audience into the world of New York-based Willem who returns home to Amsterdam following a family tragedy.

Playwright Simon Stephens covers a lot of ground in this monologue – family rifts, parental and sibling grief, regret at the passing of time, and the longing for a lost love. On occasion, we are left to fill in a few blanks, but Stephens avoids being overly sentimental. Plus, given the public’s seemingly minimal attention span these days, brevity is probably a smart option.

Will Young. Credit: Michael Wharley

Will Young. Credit: Michael Wharley.

Willem comes across as superficial and almost matter of fact about his loss which makes his occasional flashes of anger and despair all the more affecting as the reality of the situation hits home. Considering the subject matter, there are plenty of light touches and sarcastic asides to ensure that the piece never drags or outstays its welcome. Singer-songwriter Mark Eitzel further enhances proceedings with a poignant piece of music that dances through the play, allowing us to enjoy Young’s exquisite vocals at their most fragile.

The minimal set offers just the right amount of insight into Willem’s featureless New York world, though the wandering background curtains had a little too much life of their own at times.

It has been said that Young’s personal loss may have added to the emotion he brings to the play. It’s an obvious assumption and does the actor a disservice. Young’s moving portrayal of Willem is due to an increasingly impressive skillset and the kismet of the right performer being offered the right script at the right time.

By Drew Tosh




Song From Far Away is at HOME, Manchester until March 11, 2023. For more information on prices and show times, please click here.