Theatre: Aspects of Love

After a week away from London, I was back in town this week to see a preview with the West End Whingers and others of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Aspects of Love, being revived at the Menier Chocolate Factory. Some might say it is an odd sort of story with a few catchy tunes, others might say it is Lloyd Webber's best work... As I had not seen it before (and hadn't been out for a while since being away) I was keen to see this chamber musical. Well I was just to be out really but that's another matter. All told, I enjoyed the cast and the production.

What works about this show is the cast and the production. It is a show centred around a few characters so it benefits from the small space. It could probably be a little smaller as there were the odd distractions of sets moving in and out like it was removal day... Given how close you are to the stage I did enjoy the the occasional sleight of hand such as when the daughter grows up in a song and gets replaced by an older actor in a less than well-fitting wig. The wig was so prominent that I looked for it in the cast list.

Anyway, the performances of the main leads are what makes this production and there is some nice casting here. Katherine Kingsley as Rose and Michael Arden as Alex made for a cute couple in the first act. As the show spans 17 years (although not that you would believe this by the lack of even subtle ageing or maturity displayed in their characterisations), perhaps the point of the show is to look at the people in your life who keep coming back in it... The second act plods along so much that you will feel ever year of those 17 however. Filling out the trio is  Dave Willetts in the role of the Uncle and he manages to give a spark to the show. Not just from his voice and performance but there is also a scene where he is showing off a little of his physique... This could be a new trend in theatre of shirtless older men. If it is, I think I have spotted it first.

The music suits the show in this small scale production. Some in our troupe were less enthused about the ongoing reuse of the same themes, but in the context of this show this seemed appropriate (aspects of emotions of love no doubt). Besides, every composer recycles and musicals are infamous for this trick. The the lack of new material is usually explained away by the need to reinforce emotional themes or some other slightly plausible reason. What really lets this show down is the book and the lyrics. Often the lyrics seem to serve no point in moving the story along other than to restate the obvious in rather trite rhymes...

The book simply takes some potentially interesting characters and trashes them in the second act rather than develops some ideas about their motivations. There were occasional flashes of brilliance with lines uttered by Max to Rose such as, "When I see the mountains, I will think of you." Nobody else in the theatre seemed up for jokes about tits that much but our little troupe made up for it with our tittering. Given the second act moves so slowly the next best thing to do is to have a good drink at interval and then nod off a bit in the second act. If you wake up in the last 20 minutes you will pick up the story without much trouble.

It is hard to work out what the central message of this show is. Maybe it is don't sleep with your uncle's girlfriend. It all gets a bit incestuous and where I come from, the plot could be best described as, "A bit Tasmanian". In fact by the time you get through the second act and have seen our central character, lust after his much younger cousin, and then run off with his uncle's paramour, it seems a shame the show wasn't titled Merrily We Roll Together.

All told the show is very watchable, but you do leave feeling like you've been prying on someone's dirty little secret rather than gaining any understanding about the human condition... It runs until 26th September. Go see it, but not with your uncle or your cousin... That would be a little... icky...

Audioboos from the jaded were as follows...
Listen!
Listen!

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