Language Laid Bare Productions
The Jack Studio Theatre, Brockley, London
Wednesday 30th October 2013
Erich Segal's original 1970 film version of Love Story is considered one of the most romantic of all time, and with his bestselling novel released alongside and the success of the instantly recognisable song from the film, this tragic tale is a wide-reaching classic. Stephen Clark and Howard Goodall's musical adaptation opened as part of the 2010 Chichester Festival season to critical acclaim and was succeeded by a 10 week West End run.
Language Laid Bare have revived this one act musical in a stripped back production at the modest space of The Jack Studio Theatre, directed by Joseph C Walsh. The small space reflects the beautiful and intense intimacy of the story and the unapologetically simple staging compliments the clarity of the plot. Some well thought out design accomplishes the potentially problematic integration of a grand piano into the set without taking over the space, breaking up into multiple tables to wheel independently around the stage. This also gives mobility to the piano itself, with actor-musicians Ian Southgate and Jennifer Lucy Cook handling their roles as interchangeable Musical Directors and ensemble cast members with constant smoothness.
The role of Oliver Barrett IV is performed with sincerity by Jonny Muir. His accomplished singing voice shines and he convinces as the arrogant law student. Although he could go further emotionally towards the tragic climax of the play, his more restrained style suggests a controlled truth and avoids any unnecessary additional sentimentality in an already tear-jerking plot. This is an almost two handed piece and the central role of Oliver's wife Jenny is given an exemplary interpretation by Caroline Keating. Her assured performance is entirely captivating, impressing musically as both a pianist and singer as well as engaging dramatically in a believable portrayal of the fiery Radcliffe student.
Emotionally poignant without feeling cheesy and with utterly charming music throughout this show is a treat for musical theatre fans. Language Laid Bare's production and The Jack Studio Theatre align to create a delicate gem worth venturing out of the West End to find.