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A CurtainUp London Review
Love the Musical
Also dovetailing the Lyric Hammersmith's all-inclusive, democratic mission, this production fits into the aim to encourage audiences and involvement with a different demographic profile. Nevertheless, Love the Musical goes far beyond any political fad or theatrical manifesto. Instead, it. Produced by the Icelandic company Vesturport, this musical is a contemporary choric celebration of tender humanity and love in the context of ephemeral existence. It offers the same rich collaboration as their adaptation of Kafka's Metamorphosis which has run as a sell-out success for the past two years.
The show is set in an experimental home for the elderly which uses song as therapy. A live pianist presides over the stage and behind the compartmentalised, institutional set designed by Börkur Jónsson, a night sky of bright stars glows at crucial points. Daily music sessions are managed by the strict but caring Nurse (Hatla Williams), in a constant agon between compelling the old folks to tackle new pop songs and their persistent recourse to old favourites such as My Old Man Says Follow the Van.
Margaret (Anna Calder-Marshall) is unceremoniously dropped off by her overbearing and insolent son Adam (Jonathan McGuinness) at the already full home. Capable but temporarily disabled by a broken wrist, her disgust is soon alleviated by the dashing, adoring Neville (Julian Curry). What follows is an example of the blinding, all-changing onset of love, regardless of age or experience.
The mostly amateur octogenarian cast sing excerpts from a wide range of songs, including Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The Rolling Stones, Franz Ferdinand and the Scissor Sisters. As the cast act or speak familiar songs there is a disjunction between the sense and the sound, so that the audience are more aware of the lyrics' meaning. This only works because each song is perfectly picked, with wit, aptness and emotion.
Admittedly often sentimental, Love the Musical sincerely and wholeheartedly pulls off what would be cheesy or cloying elsewhere. Added poignancy and an edge because of the setting and the proximity of death, music and love are presented as the only counterbalance to suffering and dementia. Tear-jerkingly moving yet also playful and fun, this unusual musical is played with genuine feeling. Gísli Örn Gardarsson is undoubtedly a visionary of humanity, energy and warmth and I would not be surprised if his generous-spirited, genuine show continues to receive well-deserved standing ovations night after night.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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