Tag Archives: Jason Denvir

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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A Guide for the Homesick – 3 Stars


A Guide for the Homesick

Trafalgar Studios

Reviewed – 19th October 2018


“Whilst the performances from both actors are strong, the abrupt shifts in character and setting require serious concentration and perseverance to follow”


A Guide for the Homesick is an ambitious, eighty minute two-hander that attempts to address a range of disparate and difficult themes through scenes of intimate intensity abstractly spliced together.

Set on one night in an Amsterdam hotel room, the decor of Jason Denvir’s set verging on the clinical, two men running from horrors in their recent past have a chance meeting that turns into a revelatory night of confession. Teddy (Clifford Samuel) is mysteriously alone on a stag weekend gone awry and Jeremy (Douglas Booth) is heading home from a stint as an aid worker in Uganda. Both men’s secrets are revealed throughout the course of the night, with each actor doubling up as the other important figure in each other’s lives.

Booth and Samuel gave sterling performances as Jeremy/Ed and Teddy/Nicholas, although each had a certain, more natural, affinity for one of the two roles. Booth’s Jeremy was an earnestly charming, yet self-effacing Harvard grad, appearing lost and confused about his identity and place in the world, whilst Ed’s restriction to a limited phraseology was a barrier to the audiences connection. In contrast, Samuel’s Teddy was reserved and deceptive, whereas Samuel’s alternate part, Nicholas, was warm, tender and instantly likeable.

Among the many threads running through the piece is a reference to the role US evangelical churches have had in the rise of the anti-gay movement in East Africa. Conservative Christians, feeling that they had lost the culture wars in the US, have exported their battle to Uganda where they feel more sure of success. A deeper exploration of the implications of these practices and ties with the aid sector would have made for a more original and and provocative piece – but having to share the stage with a parallel plot meant that neither felt nuanced enough.

Urban’s script necessitates rapid shifts between each thread, sometimes abruptly and without context. As the piece reaches its climax, the actors’ switches between characters rise to such a pace that it becomes jarring to watch, little helped by director Jonathan O’Boyle’s choice to use screeching soundscapes and complementary changes in lighting. Ed’s repetition of a phrase concerning a lonely whale, although symptomatic of his character’s mental instability, is so random and out of place in the piece that it’s almost comic.

Whilst the performances from both actors are strong, the abrupt shifts in character and setting require serious concentration and perseverance to follow. Rather than going into meaningful depth for any of the themes, the play is a menagerie that would have done better with a narrower focus.


Reviewed by Amber Woodward

Photography by Helen Maybanks


A Guide for the Homesick

Trafalgar Studios until 24th November


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Strangers in Between | ★★★★ | January 2018
Again | ★★★ | February 2018
Good Girl | ★★★★ | March 2018
Lonely Planet | ★★★ | June 2018
Two for the Seesaw | ★★ | July 2018
Silk Road | ★★★★ | August 2018
Dust | ★★★★★ | September 2018


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