This pared-down revival of Aspects of Love works for the Southwark Playhouse main house but would easily be swallowed up if it were hypothetically to transfer into a West End proscenium arch theatre. While that may be true for the majority of shows in smaller venues, it is perhaps in this instance the most significant reason why, however good it is (and it is good), it shouldn’t ideally go anywhere substantially larger without some thought being given as to how to stage it in a bigger space. The band, comprised here of two pianists (musical director Richard Bates and Tom Chippendale) and a percussionist (Jess Clarke), would almost certainly have to expand somewhat.
That said, don’t be put off by the lack of string or brass instruments – if anything, the cast don’t exactly have to strain their voices to be heard over the orchestra. Listening to the lyrics without elaborate orchestrations, I found that the sung-through dialogue to be witty in places and poignant in others. I must admit I had always imagined the show’s best-known musical number, ‘Love Changes Everything’, to be something belted at full throttle, a little like the Whitney Houston version of Dolly Parton’s ‘I Will Always Love You’. But it doesn’t have to be done that way. Though Felix Mosse’s Alex Dillingham nails the famed final note of the song perfectly, much of the rest of the song, elements of which return at various points during the show’s proceedings, is delivered with subtlety, and is, perhaps paradoxically, more intense as a result.
I don’t know what you make of people in the audience periodically consulting their programmes. It wasn’t, to be fair, altogether easy to tell immediately what each scene change led to. I was going to give you an example of what I mean by this, but it would be giving too much away, so I will only say that it’s worth consulting the programme at some point in order to gain an understanding of what scenes and musical numbers are set in the show’s various locations.
Set between 1947 and 1964, the production demonstrates that while there are differences in the way people lived back then, some things are universal. George (Jerome Pradon), who puts in a heart-warming performance in ‘The First Man You Remember’, is a doting father to Jenny (Eleanor Walsh), while Jenny herself is growing up, no longer wanting or needing the sort of protectionist paternalism that may have been appropriate before. I caught this production in its previous incarnation at the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester, and even on second viewing, I struggled slightly to keep up with who was sleeping with whom, and more particularly, why. But love can be messy, and love can be complicated.
Like other shows composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat comes to mind especially), the same tunes make repeated appearances, but to different lyrics. The choreography (Sam Spencer-Lane) comes into its own in the penultimate number, ‘Hand Me The Wine and The Dice’. Kelly Price as Rose Vibert brought the house down on press night with ‘Anything But Lonely’ – both her and Felix Mosse’s voices are equally at ease with the big notes as they are with the more nuanced melodies.
There’s no escaping, though, the rather convoluted storyline. But it’s all rather strangely fascinating. The ten-strong cast with no weak links put in performances that make for a more than satisfying evening. For the story that it tells, it is perhaps ten or fifteen minutes too long, but that is a relatively minor complaint when the music is as good as this. An absorbing night out.
Review by Chris Omaweng
From the cobbled streets of Paris to the mountains of the Pyrenees, Aspects of Love is a sweeping, epic and heart-breaking love story spanning seventeen years. Passion, desire, family ties and friendship bind six people and three generations together as they come to appreciate how love changes everything.
Alex falls in love with the alluring actress, Rose Vibert. Following a little persuasion, Rose joins Alex at his Uncle’s villa. As the pair embark on a steamy, passionate affair, the unexpected arrival of Uncle George changes all their lives – and those around them – forever.
Director – Jonathan O’Boyle
Musical Director – Richard Bates
Choreographer – Sam Spencer-Lane
Designer – Jason Denvir
Lighting Designer – Aaron J. Dootson
Sound Designer – James Nicholson
Madalena Alberto, Jack Churms, Eleanor Jackson, Jason Kajdi, Felix Mosse, Julia J Nagle, Minal Patel, Jerome Pradon, Kelly Price, Eleanor Walsh.
7 January to 9 February 2019
77-85 Newington Causeway
London SE1 6BD