Wednesday 16 January 2019

Aspects of Love - Review

Southwark Playhouse, London


Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics by Don Black and Charles Hart
Based on the novel by David Garnett
Directed by Jonathan O’Boyle

Jerome Pradon and Madalena Alberto

In a rare London revival, Jonathan O’Boyle brings Aspects of Love down the M6 from Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre to the Southwark Playhouse, delivering a show that wavers between a confection of complex cliché and a homage to the male ego.

Driving the narrative is Alex, (Felix Mosse), a man possessed with such apparent animal magnetism that he is rendered irresistible to the opposite sex from adolescent girls through to women approaching their third age. But for all that Alex may have been imbued with this Lothario-like psyche, it hasn’t rubbed off on Mosse, a young man who lacks both gravitas and vocal presence. As a consequence, too much of this production, especially in the second act, becomes literally in-credible and at times tedious. And in the #MeToo era especially there needs to be questions raised about performing a show that references a mutual love, even if non-consummated, between a 34 year old man and a child 19 years his junior.

Most of O’Boyle’s company turn in sound performances with fine work in particular from Kelly Price as Rose, the show’s leading female and Eleanor Walsh as Jenny, her daughter. The acting accolades of the night however belong to the cast’s more senior members with Jerome Pradon putting in a polished turn as George, Alex’s uncle and an incorrigible romantic. A man who hopelessly falls for any woman who chances to wear the gown worn by his first late wife, Pradon’s priapic predator masterfully steals his every scene, his acting through both song and presence proving immaculate. Madalena Alberto plays Giulietta, George’s Venetian lover. Alberto is the very essence of excellence in a role that is woefully too small for her sensational talent.

Aspects of Love, inhabiting that obscure fairy-tale world of love that Sondheim mastered far more effectively in A Little Night Music, demands flawlessness across the board if its creaking conceits are to work and the cynical 21st century disbeliefs of its audiences be suitably suspended. This requirement extends to the band too, for while Richard Bates’ trio put in a fine shift on Lloyd Webber’s score, the noble Lord's melodies crave a bigger ensemble of musicians if they are to soar effectively.

Fringe treatments of musical theatre can often be magical. Here however, a difficult story makes for an evening of uneven entertainment.

Runs until 9th February 2019
Photo credit: Pamela Raith

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