Love, Genius and a Walk
Drayton Arms Theatre
Reviewed – 8th October 2018
“fails to lift us on any level and, consequently remains, similar to Mahler’s unfinished 10th Symphony, not ready for performance”
Mahler and Freud. Two brilliant minds in two very different areas of life. Mahler had a neurotic talent as both composer and conductor, his head full of wildly beautiful and powerful music. Freud revolutionised our perception of psychology with challenging theories and the founding of psychoanalysis. ‘Love, Genius and a Walk’ imagines their one brief meeting, brought on by Mahler’s marital problems, and generally questions the complexity of love between people and their passion, simultaneously paralleling a contemporary tale. Unfortunately, the production shows nothing of the mental virtuosity in the portrayal of these two great men. Neither does it convincingly show relationships struggling to balance their emotions and ambitions.
Alma Mahler was tormented by having to give up composing, imposed on her by Mahler when they married. “I feel as if a cold hand has torn the heart from my breast”. She was attracted to his dynamism but was later crushed by his lack of affection. He was anguished by her infidelity, unable to accept her lack of devotion to him. We feel nothing of this angst in the performances. As for the modern couple, a writer and her banker husband fail to understand each other. Her glorification of Mahler is beyond his comprehension. And any bond between them is beyond ours. At the end, we can only guess at the reason for his reaction on facing the music.
‘Bringing Up the House’ has the objective of raising money to find accommodation for homeless people with animals. Therefore, plainly, the budget is tight – noticeable in the costumes and set. It could also explain why the cast is a mixture of professional and non-professional, though sadly, despite a couple of cameo roles by Ashleigh Cole, it is not clear which is which. That aside, the quality of the work itself need not be compromised. Gay Walley’s script puts a list of facts into dialogue without shaping the characters or developing their stories, achieving a two-dimensional effect; it is disappointing to think that the conversation at the meeting of these two great men could have been quite so uninspiring. The actors are not helped by this but the half-baked performances add awkwardness rather than bring life to the play. Could we not hear more of his music as he sits composing, to illustrate what is going through his head?
There is a lot of fierce competition among shoestring fringe productions. A work about Mahler and Freud and their intellectual and creative surroundings inevitably has artistic expectations. The idea is fascinating but ‘Love, Genius and a Walk’ fails to lift us on any level and, consequently remains, similar to Mahler’s unfinished 10th Symphony, not ready for performance.
Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington
Love, Genius and a Walk
Continues at the Etcetera Theatre 12th – 14th October