Aspects of Love
Reviewed – 10th January 2019
“The performances marvellously capture all the aspects of love that the libretto tries to convey”
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Aspects of Love” was met with a mixed reception when first written and produced in the eighties, and it is indeed one of his more curious affairs. Its own meandering inception and evolution seems to match the rather convoluted plot, based on the autobiography of David Garnett, Virginia Woolf’s nephew. Originally mooted as a film for which Webber and Tim Rice were to contribute some songs, it morphed into an unrealised collaborative cabaret with Trevor Nunn at the helm, before lyricists Don Black and Charles Hart came on board to help steer the vessel in some sort of definite direction. Sandwiched between “Phantom of the Opera” and “Sunset Boulevard” it probably suffered from a lack of focus and some have said it lost its way.
Katie Lipson has untangled the rigging in this revival, first produced last summer at the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester, and put it well and truly back on track; also showing us that there is more to this musical than the hit song, “Love Changes Everything”. For there are some truly striking melodies which, by stripping the accompaniment back to just two pianos and percussion, are now allowed to shine through the otherwise lumbering sung-through dialogue.
The story begins with the character of Alex (Felix Mosse) who is looking back over his life. It then flashes back to 1947 when he fell in love with Rose Vibert (Kelly Price), the star of a touring acting company. The young Alex convinces the older actress to spend two weeks with him at his Uncle George’s unoccupied estate. When Uncle George (Jerome Pradon) returns unexpectantly and finds himself attracted to Rose, the complications begin. Complications not just for the characters within the story though; but for the producers too. The trick now is how to keep the audience engaged as the characters canoodle their way through the doodling plot, occasionally thrown off kilter by sudden shifts in time.
But Lipson has the Midas Touch when it comes to musical theatre and has once again assembled an impressively strong cast. The performances marvellously capture all the aspects of love that the libretto tries to convey. Jonathan O’Boyle’s confident direction allows the detail to be seen through the myriad scene and time changes. And if you don’t really care for the plot you certainly care about the characters.
Despite the heavy-handed feel of the piano accompaniment (which some tweaking on the sound desk could quickly cure) the vocal performances are beautiful and searingly moving. Mosse’s intimate yet unsentimental rendition of ‘Love Changes Everything’ is a delightful detour from the original, but the highlights of the show include Price’s heart rending ‘Anything But Lonely’ and Pradon’s understated opening to the Ivor Novello tinged ‘The First Man You Remember’.
But beyond this central love triangle is where the interest really lies. Madalena Alberto, as the free-loving Giulietta is compellingly watchable; Eleanor Walsh, as the fifteen-year-old Jenny, gives an assuredly mature performance that eschews the uncomfortable Lolita-style caricature that is often associated with the role. And Minal Patel, as actor manager Marcel, softly steals the smaller stage time he is allowed with his velvet voice.
It is a tricky show that explores perhaps too many variations on the theme of love. But it seems that this intelligent cast has picked one aspect, made it their own, and let it shine. Like the diamond in the mire, this clear-cut production lets the emotion glisten.
Reviewed by Jonathan Evans
Photography by Pamela Raith
Aspects of Love
Southwark Playhouse until 9th February
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: