Review: Goodbye Barcelona - Arcola Theatre, London

Tommy Gill as Sammy
Photographer: Simon Annand
Telling the story of 18 year old Sammy, who decides to join the International Brigades and fight in the Spanish Civil War, Goodbye Barcelona opened at the Arcola Theatre last night. This new British musical follows Sammy (Tom Gill) as he passionately defends the rights of the Spanish people, discovers the harsh realities of army life and falls in love with Spanish señorita Pilar (Katie Bernstein), whilst unbeknownst to him, his mother Rebecca has followed him to the battlefield, working as a nurse.

Gill performs well, giving Sammy an identifiable and loveable personality that draws you in. His relationship with Bernstein is brilliant and you really feel the love they are trying to portray, but Judith Johnson’s book is a letdown and the show doesn’t dedicate enough time to building a credible love story from the beginning.

Laura Tebbutt as La Passionaria
Photographer: Simon Annand
Rebecca is played by Lucy Bradshaw, who is wonderful in the part but makes the most of an under-developed character. Whilst searching for her son she treats an anarchist, Ernesto (John Killoran), for a gunshot wound, and their relationship develops into love. Bradshaw and Killoran have wonderful chemistry and their initial exchanges were brilliant but again as their story develops, Johnson’s book fails them, and the characters’ relationship – whilst brilliantly acted – lacks progression.

The friends Sammy makes at war, Jack (Mark Meadows) and George (Jack Shalloo), are played well but Meadows in particular could do with being used more, as his performance is gripping and further development to his character would really benefit the show.

There are some fantastically tense moments and notable mentions are due to Ifan Gwilym-Jones and Alex Rand as ‘The Fascists’, although they too are underused and would really bring something to the show if they were developed into a scene or used more frequently.

KS Lewkowicz’s score, however, I really enjoyed. The show is packed with music and has some great singers to go with them – most notably Laura Tebbutt as La Pasionaria. The songs really bring the show to life and none of the cast’s voices disappoint, with some particularly beautiful moments from Bradshaw and Bernstein and if the book reached the same standards as the songs the musical could really go somewhere.

Jack Shalloo as George
Photographer: Simon Annand
The set is minimal but as the show is set in a war zone it works well and the warehouse feel of the Arcola Theatre really compliments it. The book itself, whilst this production has a great cast who do wonders for it, feels like a draft and would benefit from further character development. With more work, the show has real potential to be successful. However at tickets priced at only £17 (concessions £11) I would really recommend going and trying it out for yourself.

Review by Louise Miles