Review – Aspects of Love, Menier Chocolate Factory, July 25th

Aspects of LoveI came to this production with no preconceptions at all, as I’d never seen it before, and had never heard the score (apart from Love Changes Everything, of course). And I am delighted to report that the Menier is back on track with a complete winner. It’s a terrific little show, telling an interesting grown-up story with sensitivity and maturity. Trevor Nunn continues to be one of my all-time heroes.

The cast are excellent; I have read comments that Michael Arden as Alex is straining to get the vocals but I don’t agree. His singing comes across as pure and youthful – which he appears to be throughout the show, always younger than the more experienced Rose and pure enough not to take advantage of young Jenny when she throws herself at him. And when he powerfully delivers the big version of Love Changes Everything the contrast with his otherwise quiet performance is very effective.

Katherine Kingsley Katherine Kingsley sings beautifully, looks great, and for me was totally convincing as the needy Rose. Dave Willetts as George was the epitome of earthly pleasures and you wouldn’t trust him with a bargepole at first; but as he gets older, he conveyed to me his growing frailty with conviction and integrity. Super.

It’s charmingly and effectively staged, and the small band gives the show sufficiently good musical support for a small theatre. It’s a really lovely score; and although nothing is as memorable as Love Changes Everything, there are some great tunes and singing the lines never feels artificial.

Michael Arden It is, however, by no means perfect. Alex starts the show looking nostalgically through his old photos, saying that if he had never gone to the theatre none of this would have happened. That implies regret – but I saw nothing in Alex’s journey (yes I used the “J” word) that would justify long time regret at his life. He gets the girl often enough, and it appears to end “happily ever after” for him. So I don’t get that. The prologue seems to serve no useful purpose other than to introduce us to the idea of the overhead projector that plots the course of the show.

Also – schoolboy error – the map of Malaya and surrounding countries that’s projected onto the screen when Alex is in the army clearly shows the town that would have in those days been called Saigon, but here named Ho Chi Minh City. I think it changed name in the 1970s sometime? Hmm. Back to the drawing board with that one I think.

I just love sitting in the front row of the Menier. You’re so up close and personal with the performance, it’s as though you are another member of the cast. And the nice young lady at the box office said “Welcome back” when I collected our tickets. I felt valued as a customer. I’ll definitely come back, don’t you worry about that. Mind you, on reflection I think I might have been a trifle too kind about Paradise Found

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Derngate Northampton, 11th June, 1st July and 15th July

Marlon DavisPlaying catch-up yet again, we’ve been to the comedy club three times in the past few weeks and seen some pretty good acts. On the 11th June the first act was Marlon Davis who gave a very nice routine about living with his dad with some very nice insights. Next was Mary Bourke who had some excellent lines about Jesus’ Facebook statuses, and last was Pierre Hollins, who was also very good. I really should have blogged about this weeks ago as my memory of the night is not great. Two intervals does mean three large glasses of Sauvignon Blanc.

Kent ValentineOn the 1st July, we started with Kent Valentine, an Australian comic who did an excellent routine on walking an empty pram through Central London. It was sufficiently credible to imagine oneself in that situation, so the comedy of cringe kicked in quite a bit.

Next up was Danielle Ward who also had good observations, but I thought allowed too long a gap between money-moments. Enjoyed her bit about going topless for £50.

Paul Sinha At the end we had Paul Sinha who was frankly sensational. Wonderful delivery, constantly funny, brilliant observations, and when he said it was time to finish the reaction of disappointment that it had come to an end was extraordinary – not witnessed that before. Won’t tell you anything about his act as that would spoil it. Can I mark him down as a national-treasure-to-be?

Otiz Cannelloni Last night was very interesting. And very funny on the whole. Otiz Cannelloni has quite an old style act but is genuinely funny so gets away with it. We laughed a lot. Plus he also did one really clever card trick. A touch of magic always goes down well. Chris McCausland doesn’t play on his blindness as much as you might expect and is also genuinely funny. It was Tony Law at the end who came a bit of a cropper as his surreal style carried many along but alienated others, with the result that he got heckled but didn’t really handle it well. Maybe he’s not used to being heckled.

Last one of the season, unfortunately, these nights are always great value entertainment.

Paul Sinha definitely wins My Comic Of The Year, were I to have such an award.

Rev, BBC2

RevJust a quick note to say how much I’m enjoying this new comedy programme Rev on BBC2 about the trials and tribulations of a young vicar with a measly congregation. I speak as someone who, in a different life, might well have gone down the vicar route. However, the appeal of working one day a week, living in a nice free house, and professionally being nice to people was offset by a spooky fear of the Communion service and the thought that deep down God probably doesn’t exist.

Tom HollanderSo it’s great to live the existence vicariously through Tom Hollander’s woebeset vicar, his splendidly deadpan wife played by Olivia Colman from Peepshow and the almost malevolent Archdeacon (Simon McBurney) who could be second cousin to Severus Snape. I love the way the Rev has to move from his natural caring basis to a position of being uncharitable in order to survive. His adherence to his principles in the face of (so far this series) self-seeking politicians and happy clappy worshippers (including the born-again virgin!) is heart warming and very very funny. My toes curl at the appropriate moments and I guffaw frequently during the half hour.

I think this one’s got legs.