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Aspects of Love (Susan Elkin reviews)

Aspects of Love – ★★★★
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Lyrics by Don Black and Charles Hart. Based on the novel by David Garnett. Produced by Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainment and Hope Mill Theatre with Jim Kierstead.
society/company: Southwark Playhouse
performance date: 10 Jan 2019
venue: Southwark Playhouse
 

Kelly Price and Felix Mosse in ASPECTS OF LOVE. Photo: Pamela Raith

★★★★

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1989 sung-through, quasi-operatic show was probably overdue for a loving revival. It is shot through with the one song everyone knows – Love Changes Everything – which is arguably overused but there’s lot more to it than that.

Now it has one. Following a successful run at Hope Mill Theatre last year and ably directed by Jonathan O’Boyle, it’s small scale. But since this is a story of convoluted inter-generational relationships it sits rather well in the intimacy of the Southwark Playhouse space configured in the round

The music is substantially reduced in scale too. Originally written for full orchestra, here it is a transcription for two keyboards and percussion. MD, Richard Bates and his colleagues are out of sight above the stage playing plenty of attention to musical detail.

The 1955 novel on which this musical is based was written by David Garnett. It is rooted in the author’s own complex Bloomsbury Group relationships. It tells the story of love, loyalty, desire, regrets across three generations of one family. Garnett himself (to cut a long story short) was the lover of Angelica’s father Duncan Grant when she was born. A generation later he married her. And there are echoes of that in Aspects of Love.

Lyrics by Don Black and Charles Hart add a neat and witty dimension and it’s a credit to this cast and their director that you hear every word: “hatchet” rhymed with “catch it” for example. Jason Denvir’s set and costume designs and Aaron J Dootson’s lighting create lots of very appealing period atmosphere. Price’s dresses are stunning and when the stage is flooded with warm, mellow Mediterranean sun you can almost smell the armagnac.

And so to the cast. Kelly Price is terrific as the troubled but hedonistic Rose, a charismatic French actor who marries an older man. She brings what Marcel (Minal Patel), her business manager and theatre colleague, calls “your strength and your fragility” to life. Price finds brittleness, passion, humour and elegance in the role and has remarkable voice control and range – both in pitch and dynamic – especially in what, in a classical opera would be called “recitative”.

Also very strong is Felix Mosse as Alex. He’s meant to be 17 when he first meets Rose and Mosse, slight and boyish in appearance more than convinces us that he’ll be “twenty in three years’ time” He too can manage the lightest, quietest thoughtful song as well as passionate full belt and he’s a fine duet singer. The six-eight number he does with Eleanor Walsh as the pubescent Jenny with lots of verses comes off delightfully, for instance, as they both lean on the chromatic accidentals as the relationship between them begins to spark. It means that we can see what’s happening even if their characters can’t.

Walsh excels as the child who then blossoms into a desirable adolescent. Wince we might, but the age of consent was (and is) 15 in France where most of the action takes place. Alex is waiting – just as, in real life David Garnett waited for Angelica Bell throughout her childhood. The on-stage chemistry between Mosse and Walsh nails all that and her top notes are quite something.

This is one to catch if you can. It punches well above its weight.

Jerome Pradon, Kelly Price and Felix Mosse in ASPECTS OF LOVE. Photo: Pamela Raith

 
 First published by Sardines: http://www.sardinesmagazine.co.uk/reviews/review.php?REVIEW-Southwark%20Playhouse-Aspects%20of%20Love%20-%20%E2%98%85%E2%98%85%E2%98%85%E2%98%85&reviewsID=3446
 
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Susan Elkin
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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