Love - The Musical
Created by Vestuport's Gisli Orn Gardarsson and Vikingur Kristjansson. Adapted by David Farr
The Lyric Hammersmith
Inspired by Gardarsson's experience of working in an old peoples home in Reykjavik, Iceland ten years ago, Love - The Musical is an unlikely life-affirming, humanist comedy.
It is laugh out loud fun, has a fantastic cast, and, surprisingly for a love story set in an old peoples home, is risqué, complete with nudity, sex, romps in the night and romance.
In turns fun, ironic, tender and poignant: this is a brilliant production giving voice to an often neglected older generation.
Anna Calder-Marshall is wonderful as the leading lady Margaret, and is well paired with the leading man Julian Curry, who plays Neville. Their chemistry is evident from the off and they deliver a perfectly plausible love affair for the audience's consumption.
The charismatic pianist Palmi Sigurhjartarson is present at the centre rear of the stage for the entire performance and is the focus of the musical contribution to the production, ably assisted by Bill Pike on the drums.
The music is fantastic, with an eclectic medley of hits from Maybe it's Because I'm Londoner to Amy Winehouse's Rehab.
Dudley Sutton provides the first uproarious laugh of the night by baring his bottom to the audience and peeing in a plant pot. Up until that point his character Thomas had stood mutely to the side of the stage which makes this outrageous act all the more funny.
This diversion sets the tone for the first half of the play, which is a laugh-out-loud race through nearly an hour of performance. Who would have thought the setting of an old peoples home could be so amusing, uplifting and full of life?
We see the young mocked ever so gently through Adam (played adeptly by Jonathan McGuinness) with his patronising way of speaking to Emma (Maria Charles) by shouting everything he says to her. She has the good grace to humour him and not point out his foolishness but gets her own back by giving him a disgusting chocolate.
Hatla Williams plays the nurse and delivers a strong performance as the lynchpin of the action. It is clear her character does much good work fostering a sense of community within the home and seems to care quite genuinely for its inhabitants.
After the interval Thomas goes on to set the tone for the second half with a moving performance of the Verve's The Drugs Don't Work. Stillness falls over the audience as they witness this vulnerable rendition that brings tears to the eyes. This is all the more poignant as it is the first time he appears to speak in the performance so his words have all the more impact.
The performance contains considerable audience interaction; actors speak directly to the audience, Margaret and Neville become part of the audience themselves when they join us to watch the play within a play, Chekhov's The Three Sisters, which is reduced to minutes and cheekily parodied.
In dramatic contrast to the opening of the second half, a confrontational Neville launches himself at Margaret's son Adam with only a bunch of flowers to cover his modestly. Such youthful bravado is both believable and comic in this banter between new lover and son.
As the plot develops the audience get a sense of Margaret breaking away from the suffocating control of her son ironically toward autonomy through her life at the old people's home.
David Bowie's Ground Control to Major Tom is used to powerful effect as it seems to be articulating the subconscious journey into another realm, in this context that of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
This play strikes the right balance between comedy and delivering a serious and credible message.
Each member of the cast both acts and sings and there is a strong sense of community, both in the fictional realm of the home and the reality of the group of individuals acting together on a stage.
Love - The Musical is a thoroughly satisfying piece of theatre that will make you laugh and cry, often simultaneously. Go and see it before it finishes and you will not be disappointed.
To 21st June
Reviewer: Eva Ritchie