Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Love Story - Review

Union Theatre, London


Music and additional lyrics by Howard Goodall
Book and lyrics by Stephen Clark
Directed by Sasha Regan

David Albury and Victoria Serra

Following on from the extremely successful run of The Dreaming and with Girlfriends in hot pursuit, Love Story is the second in the Union's three part Howard Goodall season. Whilst it is always refreshing to see venues supporting British writing and despite its nomination for an Olivier back in 2010, one cannot help but feel that there are still some holes in this classically cheesy plot that are holding the production back.

An adult fairy tale from the 1970’s, Erich Segal’s novel, famously filmed starring Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw and helped in no small way by Francis Lai’s Oscar winning theme, imprinted itself upon the baby-boomer generation and in the show Stephen Clark’s book makes a grand attempt to capture the dreamy yet doomed relationship between Victoria Serra’s working class Jenny and the more patrician Oliver.

Serra’s performance is executed well, flitting effortlessly from “feisty with attitude” to the slightly more delicate young innocent, swept up in the passion of an exciting romance. She demonstrates her vocal versatility and strong stage presence almost instantly in Jenny’s Piano Song, later showing an equally impressive but far more tender side in Nocturnes, a scene that is stunningly complemented by Iain Dennis’ lighting.

In slightly awkward contrast, David Albury brings an uncomfortable harshness to Oliver. There is no doubt that both Albury's chiselled looks and singing voice are wonderful, but at times one feels that a greater sense of anger, or even heartbreak is required to truly reflect not only the story's tragic ending, but also the difficult relationship, universally recognisable, that he has with his parents.

Regan directs well. She knows her beloved space intimately, ensuring that every inch of stage is used to great effect, never more so than in the opening and closing number What Can You Say? where the full company create a splendid ensemble sound, even if there seems to be just a hint of Blackrock from Goodall’s The Hired Man creeping in to the melody.

Special mention also to the female ensemble of Tanya Truman, Grace Osborn and Ellie Ann Lowe. Their voices combine beautifully as they watch the lovers’ romance develop, providing an almost Chorus like narrative, backed delightfully throughout by Inga Davis-Rutter’s exquisite musical direction.

Bring tissues and a significant other, a visit to the Union’s Love Story makes for a great date!

Runs until 25th October 2014
Picture by Darren Bell

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