British Actors Arthur Darvill and Joanna Christie Are Lovelorn Troubadours of Broadway's Once

By Adam Hetrick
25 Jun 2013

Both of your characters have difficulty expressing their desires in dialogue, but the songs are deeply confessional - to the point that it has to be almost raw for an actor at times.

Arthur Darvill and Joanna Christie
Photo by Joan Marcus

AD: It's very funny being in this country, and this is a vast sweeping statement, but what I've learned here – a really great thing actually – people are far more open about to talk about how they feel about things here as a culture.
JC: Whereas in the U.K. we're notorious for being repressed.
AD: I think what I did as a young man was not talk about things and write a song about it. You can sing it at a gig and people go, "What's that about?" And you go, "I don't know." But when you're singing something, you can pour your heart out in it. And something I relate to in this play so much is the ability to say in song what you cannot say in words, which is what the best musicals do – and this is different, it's more a play with songs. But they can't say what they feel – well, my character can't really say what he feels.

JC: My character doesn't necessarily say what she means. I was talking to a director friend of mine about why [Once book writer] Enda Walsh is such an amazing writer, because it's real. It's so complicated as life and relationships are. It's not just, "I like you and you like me. Let's get together." When you're grown up, there's so much more to it.
AD: I think there's something very telling about the two of us both being over 30. We've both experienced a lot of life and you get to a point where, I feel very sorted now.
JC: I wouldn't have understood this story and these characters five years ago. I really wouldn't.

Once has kind of perfected the actor-musician musical concept. I'm curious to know how playing an instrument while singing these deeply emotional songs roots you in the work. 


JC: I've never done musical theatre, but I think there's something very different in a musical when you're singing a song that comes out of the scene. In this, I am playing a song. I'm not playing it and pretending I'm doing something else, I am actually in character playing a song, and that to me is very different. I feel free to just play as well as I can play instead of "acting." It doesn't feel like I'm acting when I'm playing.
AD: It definitely roots us – the fact that we're all making that sound on stage together – the entire cast and there's not a separation of musicians and an orchestra. Sometimes I look around and go, "We are just a bunch of people making a sound." It's incredible. I think it roots us all. We're all responsible for telling this story.


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Anne L. Nathan, Arthur Darvill, Joanna Christie, Eliza Holland Madore and Katrina Lenk
Photo by Monica Simoes