Tag Archives: Hope Mill Theatre

Aspects of Love

Aspects of Love
★★★★

Southwark Playhouse

Aspects of Love

Aspects of Love

Southwark Playhouse

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:
The Country Wife | ★★★ | April 2018
Confidence | ★★ | May 2018
The Rink | ★★★★ | May 2018
Why is the Sky Blue? | ★★★★★ | May 2018
Wasted | ★★★ | September 2018
The Sweet Science of Bruising | ★★★★ | October 2018
The Trench | ★★★ | October 2018
Seussical The Musical | ★★★★ | November 2018
The Funeral Director | ★★★★★ | November 2018
The Night Before Christmas | ★★★ | November 2018

 

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Pippin – 4 Stars

Pippin

Pippin

Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 28th February 2018

★★★★

“Tessa Kadler … nails the comedy but melts the heart with the purity of her singing voice”

 

Written in 1972, “Pippin” uses the ‘play within a play’ concept to recount the story of Pippin, a young prince on his search for meaning and significance in his life. The fourth wall is broken from the outset in what is quite a stunning opening as the players, lead by the formidable Genevieve Nicole as ringmaster-cum-emcee, launch into the prologue number, ‘Magic To Do’.

Jonathan Boyle’s upbeat production at Southwark Playhouse lives up to this promise. Most of the time. That is no mean feat, as in less able hands this show could so easily fall apart under the weaknesses of the book. The story is derived from the real life medieval characters; ‘Pepin’ and his father ‘Charlemagne’, although there is no historical accuracy beyond the use of the names. Charting Pippin’s rite of passage the narration purposefully feels improvised, but the technique grates after a while and any intended poignancy is lost in the confusion.

On his quest for fulfilment, Pippin joins the army fighting for his father, but then leads a political rebellion against him and usurps the throne. Still unfulfilled he flees to the country and sets up home with a widow and her son. But he is still unsatisfied. One could share Pippin’s frustration if this haphazardly lazy fable wasn’t rescued by Stephen Schwartz’s score. What Schwartz brings to the stage is fresh and modern but also recognisable in its influences, tipping his hat to Gilbert and Sullivan, Bernstein, Kander and Ebb, Motown, and adding his own pop sensibilities. William Whelton’s masterful choreography is unmistakable in its homage to Bob Fosse who choreographed and directed the original Broadway production.

Jonathan Carlton’s Pippin is part ‘boy band’ and ‘boy-next-door’, a charming mix that fits the role, but the show stealer is Tessa Kadler as the widow, Catherine, who nails the comedy but melts the heart with the purity of her singing voice.

But overall the initial promise of magic isn’t quite sustained. The comedy doesn’t always work: there is a feeling of trying too hard which is disengaging and which conflicts with the absurdity of the piece. The company should embrace the nonsense, or dispense with the plot entirely. The sideshow quality of Maeve Black’s design adds a touch of seediness and sexiness and Aaron J. Dootson’s lighting is spot on ‘Cabaret’. As a revue this would be the perfect show. The all singing, all dancing cast are faultless and with the eight piece band led by musical director, Zach Flis, it is a quite spectacular evening.

Just as Schwartz’s lyrics proclaim, the committed cast do perform magic. It is quite a conjuring trick to bring to life Roger O. Hirson’s flimsy text. The music has soul, but the story lacks heart.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Pamela Raith

 


Pippin

Southwark Playhouse until 24th March

 

 

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