Tag Archives: Madalena Alberto

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

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

Ay, Carmela! – 3 Stars

Carmela

Ay, Carmela!

Cervantes Theatre

Reviewed – 27th September 2018

★★★

“a love letter of sorts to the Spanish Civil War”

 

War is not a concept we are unfamiliar with. In this world, there is always one country battling with another. Or, more tragically, one country with two opposing sides fighting each other. José Sanchis Sinisterra’s 1985 play, Ay Carmela! is a love letter of sorts to the Spanish Civil War, highlighting the terror and devastation that conflict leaves in its destructive path.

Paulino is alone in the dark of an empty theatre. Left with his thoughts and imagination becoming more vivid. Outside, the Spanish Civil War is still raging on, General Franco and his men are storming through Spanish towns, liberating them one by one of the communist-driven Republicans. Paulino was once part of a travelling, two-bit, music hall double act with his outspoken partner and lover Carmela. They found themselves caught behind enemy lines of Franco’s Nationalist party. They were forced to put a performance together, for both troops and prisoners, which ended in fatal circumstances, and replays in Paulino’s mind constantly. With the metaphysical appearances of Carmela, it is never clear whether this is in Paulino’s mind or a fantastical occurrence.

I would be interested to have seen this production in the original Spanish (which is performed on different dates throughout the run). There are elements to the version I saw that did not click which may be due to the translation (John London) to English. Certain phrases didn’t sit quite right and the style at times came across too over dramatic and hammy. In the Spanish language, this might have come across differently. As surreal and absurdist as the piece is, with many similarities to the work of Samuel Beckett, there are still moments that lacked clarity, or, more unfortunately, are just a little lacklustre. A good ten to fifteen minutes could have been shaved off in places.

Ivanhoe Norona as Paulino has certainly to be commended for his natural comic timing. His slapstick antics are sometimes reminiscent of the silent movie age. He tries to balance this with a more nuanced display of emotion, for intimate scenes, yet it is noticeable that the comedy is where he feels most comfortable. Madalena Alberto as Carmela is a vibrant force when present on stage, offering an innate chemistry between herself and Norona, bickering like an old married couple.

Enrique Muñoz, head of sound and video, did an excellent job in projecting black and white footage from the civil war onto the stage floor, enabling someone like myself, with no real knowledge of the conflict, to get a greater appreciation of its atrocities.

Ay Carmela! Is a highly allegorical play that illustrates the human price we pay for war. A symbolic depiction of the fear-mongering time of the civil war. Perhaps when you do not have a full understanding of the history of the Spanish Civil War, and combined with an English translation, which I imagine has lost some of the poeticism of the Spanish original, the play can be a slow and difficult to follow at times. Nevertheless, the cast and crew put together a production that is difficult to fault.

 

Reviewed by Phoebe Cole

 

Cervantes Theatre

Ay, Carmela!

Cervantes Theatre until 13th October

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
The Little Pony | ★★★★ | June 2018

 

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