Song From Far Away Reviews – starring Will Young

Reviews are coming in for the Song From Far Away at Hampstead Theatre in London starring Will Young.

Song From Far Away is written by Simon Stephens (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night–Time) and Mark Eitzel (lead singer of American Music Club), and follows a New York-based man who is forced to return home to Amsterdam after receiving a significant phone call.

Pop star Will Young’s previous stage performances include Strictly Ballroom The Musical, Cabaret and The Vortex. On film, he has appeared in Mrs Henderson Presents.

Directed by Kirk Jameson (Love Story), this new revival is playing at HOME in Manchester until 11 March 2023.

Other creatives include design by Ingrid Hu, lighting design by Jane Lalljee, sound design by Julian Starr, and music composition, supervisor and arranger Paul Schofield.

The play first premiered at the Young Vic in 2015 starring Eelco Smits with direction by Ivo van Hove; and this production premiered at Manchester’s HOME theatre.

Read reviews from the Times, TimeOut, Stage and more – for the current Hampstead run, and previous Home Manchester run.

Book tickets to Song From Far Away at Hampstead Theatre in London

Song From Far Away reviews

The Stage

"Beautiful, meditative performance from Will Young" (Hampstead Theatre)

"Will Young’s quietly absorbing performance makes this meditation on grief and loneliness sing"

"An 80-minute monologue about a grieving hedge-fund manager may not sound as though a particularly enticing prospect. But there is an alchemical magic in Kirk Jameson’s production, with Will Young performing Simon Stephens and Mark Eitzel’s spikily touching one-man play."

"It is a beautiful, meditative performance, directed with care by Jameson, and made all the more poignant given that Young lost his twin brother in 2020. Ingrid Hu’s design offers fleeting moments of drama – a snow flurry, the lights and drifting smoke of fireworks, an oppressively lowering ceiling – but never detracts from Young, magnetically pacing his gilded cage."

Siobhan Murphy, The Stage
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"Will Young is excellent in Simon Stephens’s wistful monologue about a banker returning home to face his past" (Hampstead Theatre)

"... Jamieson’s revival – first seen in Manchester earlier this year – amps things up with a bigger, funnier, more muscular Willem in the form of pop star Will Young. He’s got established stage chops, having taken leading roles in a couple of big musicals and while this is his most nuanced and restrained turn to date, I think the oomph added by his populist background is a definite strength over the original production."

"Presumably, Willem is, on some level, happy in New York. But the poignancy of the play is that we never see that world, only his trip home."

"It’s been widely noted that Young lost his own brother a few years ago, and clearly that provides some fuel for his excellent performance. There’s a fearlessness to it: he’s not afraid to make Willem funny and he’s not afraid to make Willem a dick – we can still feel his pain, perhaps more so than he can. And, of course, he can sing!"

Andrzej Lukowski, TimeOut
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The Financial Times

"Gentle, truthful, immensely touching" (Hampstead Theatre)

"In this compassionate, subtly composed monologue, we meet Willem (Will Young), another man suspended in a twilight zone by the shock of grief and an enforced reckoning with himself."

"Stephens writes very movingly about grief and about the meaning of home — think of Sea Wall, performed so brilliantly by Andrew Scott — and here we watch a man who seems profoundly deracinated."

"Young handles the slips from speech to song beautifully, as if patches of ice were melting. It’s a gentle, truthful, immensely touching portrait of a man facing himself and daring to feel his way towards recovery."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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The Observer

"Will Young compels" (Hampstead Theatre)

"Its new incarnation with Will Young (of Pop Idol fame) is a more staid, middle-aged and clothed affair, set in a hotel room sleekly designed by Ingrid Hu."

"Young is outstanding as Willem, who has flown from New York to Amsterdam to attend his brother’s funeral. His face changes constantly: grief occasionally giving way to a twinkle in the eyes or a big, liberating laugh."

"Deftly directed by Kirk Jameson, there is some fine singing here (it would be missing a trick, with Young, if there were not), and Stephens’s writing is a treat."

Kate Kellaway, The Observer
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Daily Mail

"Will Young's one man play Song From Far Away only really zings when he's singing" (Hampstead Theatre)

"Four times we hear him sing. And in those four times, mere snippets of songs, we hear why Will Young won that first series of Pop Idol back in 2002. He has an effortless, mellifluous voice that oozes regret and longing."

"It’s a tricky role in which we need to accept that Willem is numb with shock and in a state of emotional inertia – which only makes Young’s job of taking us into his confidence and winning our sympathy even more challenging."

"Young mirrors Willem’s emotional self-defence with the camp affectation of a constantly ascending intonation. But, oddly for a singer, it’s a bit single register and only broken by flashes of anger. There are, however, those four snippets of song when we get to feel Willem’s pain."

Patrick Marmion, Daily Mail
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The Times

"Will Young hits the right notes as a grieving brother" (Hampstead Theatre)

"Smoothly directed by Kirk Jameson, the production marks the first time that Young has carried a dramatic play by himself. And he does it splendidly, fully claiming the remote, slightly bitchy yet reflective character of Willem"

"It is a very fine performance, understated and subtly detailed. Young brings to the part some of the innate musicality cultivated during his pop career, including his keening voice with its tremulous sensitivity. Once or twice Young does sing, briefly and with no emotional grandstanding whatsoever."

"If this is a star vehicle, it is an acutely observed, sometimes tender but also fairly slight one."

Donald Hutera, The Times
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The Sunday Times

"Will Young turns personal tragedy into a triumph" (Hampstead Theatre)

"Mining his loss, eyes glinting with tears, the former Pop Idol winner proves that he’s far more than just a TV celebrity"

"As Young performs, his eyes occasionally glinting with tears, it is hard to know how much he is mining his own loss. I hope it will not sound voyeuristic to say that. Not that there is anything dishonourable about an actor using his own sadnesses. This is a subtle, unselfish performance. Young does not overmilk it. He may not have the full armoury of acting talents, but he is pretty good and even sings a bit, the voice instantly soulful. You leave the theatre thinking: “There’s more to Will Young than one expects from TV talent show celebs.” But we probably already knew that."

Quentin Letts, The Sunday Times
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The Guardian

"Will Young acts with melodic grace in poignant monologue" (Home Manchester)

"The star performs with a musician’s sense of rhythm in this alternately arch and elegiac piece by Simon Stephens and Mark Eitzel about a bereaved brother attempting to reconnect with his former life"

"... if ever there was an actor born to sing, it is Will Young. He plays the part of the disconnected Willem in this 80-minute miniature with melodic grace."

"At turns louche, comic and fragile, he has a musician’s sense of rhythm. When he actually sings, as he does in the cathartic pay-off, it is delicate and angelic."

"That Young lost his own brother in 2020 adds an edge of poignancy to this tale of a man half-heartedly trying to reconnect with his old life in the Netherlands after 12 years in the US. But although Song from Far Away ticks off the seven stages of grief, it is less about loss than about life’s trade-offs."

"As a story it covers limited territory, but in its detail it is vivid and, in Kirk Jameson’s sometimes overstated production, thoughtful, engaging and superbly performed."

Mark Fisher, The Guardian
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The Telegraph

"Will Young’s long, wry goodbye is a heartbreaker" (Home Manchester)

"The pop star's personal loss gives his brave performance in Simon Stephens’s monologue added emotional heft"

"It represents no small feat of memory and exposing challenge; but in contrast to its Ivo van Hove-directed UK premiere at the Young Vic in 2015, there’s no nudity. In subject-matter, however, it couldn’t be closer to home."

"What lends the 80-minute affair the necessary emotional heft is, firstly, the understated spectacle of solitary vulnerability."

"Most affectingly, there’s the title-teased song itself. His bleached hair lent a celestial sheen by the lights, Young finally lets his angelic voice take wing, with a brief heartbreaker..."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Manchester Evening News

"Will Young plays the music of grief in Song From Far Away revival" (Home Manchester)

"Will Young impresses Manchester audiences with his first live theatre role in a decade"

'In this central and only role, Young cuts a distinctive figure - think knackered Andy Warhol meets fading Gen X Iconoclast – but the best actors are those who become near-unrecognisable whilst bringing a degree of familiarity to the stage, and in this first theatre role in over a decade, Young takes on a heavy load."

"Song from Far Away is supported by exceptional staging and Kirk Jameson’s creative direction. The shifting cinematic ceiling lowers and rises to imitate the simultaneous claustrophobia and expansive loneliness of grief, whilst a glimpse of snowfall in the darkness beyond the penthouse window provides a sublime moment of impressive scale."

'As such, Song From Far Away is perhaps best considered as a sort of ambient musical - one that drifts between dream and waking life, remembrance and reality, much like the plumes of formless smoke that creep out from the corners and out over the audience, carrying this finely tuned atmosphere with it."

Kristofer Thomas, Manchester Evening News
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What's On Stage

"A melodic meditation on loss" (Home Manchester)

"HOME Manchester hosts a new revival of the monologue"

"He [Will Young] occasionally paces through lines and images without enough pauses to let them fully sink in. And his affected, slightly effete American accent is a little too unrelentingly snooty; we don't see that hardened exterior fracture and crumble as much as it could. But its barbed edge perfectly captures the resentment and bitterness, with flashes of outright anger, that comes from being left behind."

"It's a beautifully composed production about the irony of how a family's loss can yoke them closer together, even while exposing the faultlines that drove them apart."

Matt Barton, What's On Stage
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📷 Main photo: Will Young in Song From Far Away. Photo by Mark Senior

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