Theatre Review: ASPECTS OF LOVE – Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester

Kelly Price (Rose) and Felix Mosse (Alex) in ASPECTS OF LOVE

Kelly Price (Rose) and Felix Mosse (Alex) in ASPECTS OF LOVE. © Anthony Robling

Jonathan O’Boyle takes on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s tangled tale of love and lust with his stunning revival of ASPECTS OF LOVE

The eighth in-house musical to be produced by the Hope Mill Theatre team, and the first from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s extensive repertoire, Jonathan O’Boyle takes a less familiar Lloyd Webber show, ASPECTS OF LOVE, and makes it feel very much at home in this intimate theatre.

This is O’Boyle’s third production, having previously worked on HAIR and PIPPIN and it’s easy to see why those at the Hope Mill continue to return to him. His innovative use of the space, conveying the many different settings, suit the story well and the stripped back rearrangement of the music is just as powerful as a full orchestra when it needs to be. After seeing ASPECTS OF LOVE performed like this, it’s hard to imagine it any other way.

The story travels from Paris to Venice to the Pyrenees, and Jason Denvir’s set conveys this European flavour wonderfully. With shuttered doors, wicker chairs and flowery vines draped from the ceiling, the whole stage is filled with the feeling of a continental holiday. This is then helped by Aaron J Dootson’s wonderful lighting design. The stage is filled with smoke and rays of sunshine-like lighting, giving everything a distinctly dreamlike quality, which seems appropriate for a show so focused on love.

The story itself is an odd one. Based on the 1955 novel by David Garnett, ASPECTS OF LOVE takes a look at many different kinds of love, such as romantic, familial, unrequited and polyamorous. It follows multiple convoluted relationships, some of which are uncomfortable, others confusing. Often the nature of certain relationships is not made entirely clear, and this can be difficult for the audience to understand. At first, the love triangle becomes easy enough to grasp, but as more people become involved, it all feels a little like overkill, as if these characters need to get out and meet some new people. However, despite the somewhat weak storyline, the actors more than compensate with their performances.

Felix Mosse plays the smitten Alex Dillingham, also known as the role that shot Michael Ball to stardom. His version of the iconic LOVE CHANGES EVERYTHING is far more stripped back and reflective than Ball’s, and with the orchestra replaced by simply two pianos and some percussion, it’s simplicity sets it apart from any other version. Mosse plays the likeable yet often unpredictable Alex with restraint, and sometimes it feels a little too subdued. After all, this is an extremely passionate character who is described by other characters as “wild”, and sometimes this is hard to see in Mosse’s portrayal. Nevertheless, his talent is undeniable and with an already impressive career behind him, he is sure to go onto great things.

Though Alex is usually played as the protagonist of this story, the tale is undoubtedly that of Rose Vibert’s, the French actress played by Kelly Price. Her performance of ANYTHING BUT LONELY is a real highlight, and makes you wonder why this song isn’t as well known as LOVE CHANGES EVERYTHING. Mosse and Price work wonderfully together, perfectly capturing the thrill of new love. It’s also lovely to hear something closer to a legit soprano in modern musical theatre, which could also be said about Kimberly Blake and her portrayal of Giulietta, who’s triumphant HAND ME THE WINE AND THE DICE is energetic and rousing.

Jerome Pradon plays the eccentric painter George, and he really comes into his own in the second act. The father-daughter relationship between him and Jenny (Eleanor Walsh) is heartwarming to watch, especially THE FIRST MAN YOU REMEMBER. They perfectly capture the love between a father and daughter, and as George becomes overprotective, it’s easy to understand why. Walsh also does a wonderful job of capturing the excitement of being in love for the first time.

Despite its sometimes clumsy and convoluted material, the music and performances save this show. This new interpretation of ASPECTS OF LOVE is stunning to look at and certainly not to be missed.

4 out of 5 stars

ASPECTS OF LOVE runs at Hope Mill Theatre until 9 August 2018.