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Thursday, 9 December 2010

Love Story at The Duchess Theatre

Love Story
was, for me, an emotional marathon, completely draining and yet enjoyable. This musical play has recently transferred from Chichester Festival Theatre where it made its debut earlier this year. This stage version is inspired by Erich Segal’s best selling novel which was later made into the famous film.

There’s not really much to the storyline, girl and boy meet, fall in love, girl dies... sorry to be blunt. We are told of Jenny’s sad fate at the start of the show and then spend the rest of it painfully waiting for it to happen. There are a few happier moments, for instance when the besotted couple cook pasta and tomato sauce together on stage... singing joyfully as they chop the garlic and onions. What a sensation to smell cooking food in the middle of a stage play.

Before the performance started we were alerted by one of the producers that the electricity supply had been cut off and so the show would have limited lighting. A strange experience it was sitting in the illuminated auditorium watching a play in the same slightly clinical light. Occasionally the bulbs would flicker, almost like the faltering life of the girl on stage. The lack of lighting variation meant the actors had to create atmosphere and tension without any help, and they succeeded admirably.

Howard Goodall’s music is the best thing about this adaptation. The band is visible on stage throughout, and they are a complete pleasure to watch. Goodall’s music is romantic without being sentimental and there are some powerfully lilting melodies, which were, incidentally the culprit of my aching tear ducts.

The acting is mostly convincing, although by the end I did feel myself getting rather irritated by the loved up duo. Emma Williams as Jenny Cavilleri and Michael Xavier who plays Oliver Barrett IV have great chemistry on stage and seem very comfortable together. Both also have very promising voices, like much of the cast. Peter Polycarpou is endearing as Jenny’s father, Phil; it is genuinely moving watching him grieve for his daughter.

Love Story continues until 26 February 2011, book tickets here.

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