Interview with Tom Parsons who plays “Guy” in “Once” – Interview by Frank L.
Previews of Once have already started with the official opening night next Tuesday, July 14th. We had the chance to interview Tom Parsons who plays “Guy” in Once on May 26th. You can see the results below. Once runs until August 22nd at the Olympia, Dublin.
You have played “Guy” in Melbourne, now you are about to play it in Dublin. What does that create in your mind?
Pure fear, unadulterated terror. I remember when my agent called me up I said “Really, is that not a bit terrifying an all-Irish cast bar me.” He was very lovely as he always is. “No you will be great.” I know I have got a challenge. At the same time, I have got to get it right.
But “Once” is site specific to Dublin even when you were playing it in Melbourne?
It was but there will be a lot more ears in Dublin that are far more trained to the sounds that I should be making. It is still all good but a lot of my Irish friends have said to me “Oh don’t be shit”.
“Once” is a fairy tale, a love story?
It is a very simple story. It is a universal story of boy meets girl and falls in love! It is the music itself which is the leveller which transcends borders, oceans and other barriers. So when you couple genuinely fantastic music with a simple story of boy meet girl, it is a universal story.
In “Once” the singers are also the musicians, the orchestra in effect?
This is the core bit of magic about the show. Every person on that stage is integral to the music. We are all on the stage for the whole time, I just happen to be stood in the middle for a lot of it. But some of the things that the other performers are doing around you musically is phenomenal. I get off quite lightly. Others in rehearsals are handed a ukulele or a mandolin or whatever and told “Go and learn that in a corner and they do”. But having all that music making in front of you as an audience member you can figure it all out and dissect it as it is happening. And of course, in the pre-show at the beginning you are part of that music.
And the pit is not there so the audience is closer to you?
Yes the audience is closer to us to the point where the audience at the beginning is on the stage in the pit so to speak. It takes away the conductor at the front on his podium. It takes away the mystique of a group of magicians dressed in black down in the pit. Whereas now the audience can figure it all out as all the musicians are in front of them on the stage.
Is it more like as if you were jamming in a Dublin pub?
Yes. The way we learnt it in Australia was we were all sat in a circle with a big white board. We are going to need a C, we are going to need an A minor and an F and a G. Ok give me a C. I do not know how many musicians are then all playing their own incarnation of a C major. That is a freedom. Very different from here is the sheet music and you come in here and you play these dots. That is the way it is written. But I have done Once now for six months so I have got to know it. You get to know what is going on. So it is going to be very strange with new musicians to be in a framework that is the same but also being all really weird and different. That is going to be the exciting thing for me. It is going to be like an alternate parallel universe.
Then there is the pre-show which I am slightly frightened by?
Oh don’t be. It is one of the best bits because on one level again who knows what is going to happen on any night. We are given a repertoire of thirty to forty Irish or Czech folk songs. Before the show starts proper when the doors open, the cast comes out on stage and instead of flicking through your programme as a member of the audience, you can go up on stage, buy a drink from the working bar on the set. At the same time the cast will be playing five or six Irish or Czech folk songs.
There is no fourth wall. Some nights you have fifty or sixty people up on stage and you have a real jig going. And you have every one jumping up and down. You see little old ladies clapping along. It is amazing. That is for me the best bit of the show.
So it is more like sitting in a pub, than sitting in a theatre about to watch a show, when you have stumbled across a bunch of very talented musicians?
That is the feel for the whole show. When you do sit in your seat the show for you will have already started and you will wonder did that actually happen. It is all very seamless. Once you were part of it and then all of a sudden even though you are in your seat you are still a part of it. The audience has been pulled into the show before it has even started!