Aspects of Love
There is something off in the tone of Aspects of Love right from the start.
The decision to revive Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical – based on David Garnett’s 1955 novella – about a love triangle in 2023 was Michael Ball’s idea.
Ball – who played Alex in the 1989 production – returns to sing Love Changes Everything, (lyrics by Charles Hart and Don Black) this time as uncle George. He does it nobly.
There are 39 random scenes. At some point through Alex (Jamie Bogoyo) shoots former lover Rose (Laura Pitt-Pulford) in the arm. His uncle (Ball) is more concerned about his Matisse wall art.
The majority of the book and lyrics are stupefying. At the interval I thought my drink had been spiked.
“I only have one life,”‘ drones one character. Only judderingly to add: “Not two.”
In one bit, the chaotic singing collides with the unspeakable: “George used to say you can have more than one emotion at the same time.”
The actual dialogue seems almost an afterthought, and the actors speak their lines without much confidence that they’re worth saying. And so we’re aware of the performers as performers. They’re not all sure what they’re meant to be conveying. And we’re not either.
The other overriding issue with this toe-curling production is that it borders on misogyny. Grooming is overlooked. It’s grim viewing, obviously.
Theatre is an addictively evil thing, though, so once I’d watched act 1 I knew I’d sit through the lot, just to see if something deeply significant actually happened. It didn’t, obviously.
The second half of Jonathan Kent’s production is scattered – as if it had been added to or subtracted from at random. Everything is spelled out.
Nothing you think could possibly be worth salvaging from this abomination.
The ones who really stand out in this mess, though, are Pitt Pullford and Bogoyo. But their work doesn’t really hold together here, how could it?
They deserve better.
One of the only other things I thought, though, that really elevated the occasion beyond the sum of its parts was the 13-piece band and Tom Kelly’s lush new orchestrations. Other redeeming moments come thanks partly to John Macfarlane’s design and Jon Clark’s lighting.
But the set, expensive costumes and people seem to be sitting there on stage, waiting for the unifying magic that never happens.
Leaving the Lyric theatre where I saw Aspects of Love, I felt the same way the women must have when uncle George dropped dead: exhausted and relieved.
- At the Lyric theatre, London, until 11 November