Photo: Mark Senior

We’ve seen Will Young on the stage twice before, in the musicals Cabaret and Strictly Ballroom. Song From Far Away is something altogether different; for starters it’s a play, not a musical, although there are a few snippets of singing. It’s a slight show – clocking in at just 80 minutes, it’s a monologue from Will, playing the character of Willem, a gay man in his 30s living in Manhattan who receives the news that his brother has died suddenly and unexpectedly. What unfolds is a delicate study of grief, as we see Willem fly back home to Amsterdam to attend the funeral.

It considers some key themes which we feel will resonate with the queer community. It’s evident that Willem wasn’t happy with his life back home and has moved away to a different city to establish a new life for himself. He seems fairly content with his life in New York and is clearly wrestling with returning home and having to spend time with the figures from his past. We see that there are tensions here which he’s struggling to confront – he opts to stay at a hotel, as opposed to staying with family; he isn’t welcome to stay for dinner.

The play unfolds as a series of letters that Willem has written to his brother, Pauli. Through these letters we learn about their difficult relationship and frictions within the family. We also gain numerous insights into Willem himself – we witness all sorts of details, small or big, whether a frustration about how long it takes to get a drink at the airport lounge, or concerns about the future in a world where the impacts of climate change have taken effect. In a touching scene we see him worry for his niece’s future in a world running low on oxygen or water.

Song From Far Away is an unusual play – there’s not a lot to it, but what’s here is an intriguing character study of a man who’s struggling with grief. We don’t get to hear Will sing very much but when we do it’s quite moving – his voice is well suited to the music in the show, bringing an effortless wistfulness to the delivery. The show is a far cry from his previous stage work and is unlikely to land with such a mainstream audience, but it still has plenty of beautiful moments – it hits the right notes often enough.

GAY TIMES gives Song From Far Away – 3/5

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