Ginger Hibiscus | Review of Love Story by Howard Goodall at The Union Theate in London by Ginger Hibiscus
Review of Love Story by Howard Goodall at The Union Theate in London by Ginger Hibiscus
Review of Love Story by Howard Goodall at The Union Theate in London by Ginger Hibiscus
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05 Oct REVIEW: Love Story at The Union Theatre

The second of three musicals in the Union Theatre’s Howard Goodall Season, Love Story brings us a beautiful tale of love and loss. When a preppy Harvard student meets a perspicacious working class bookshop assistant, the last thing either of them expects is to fall in love. Yet through a barrage of friendly insults, and astute, flirtatious jesting, the foundations are laid for an intense and passionate relationship that’s rooted in mutual commitment, and veiled, yet ever present, respect. That said, and despite the name, it’s refreshing that Love Story doesn’t distort the notion of love into a Disney-fied fairytale, just as it never suggests that to live “happily ever after” is a realistic pursuit. But rather it accepts that sometimes, sacrifices have to be made, and that it’s down to the individuals to determine their own priorities, within the context of their circumstances.

It isn’t a spoiler to reveal that the heroine of the piece, Jenny, dies tragically during the telling of the story; as the metaphorical curtain rises on her funeral, mourners gather to lament the passing of a young woman scarcely out of her teens, with the hauntingly beautiful “What Can You Say.” A lovely ensemble moment elegantly (if not entirely originally) staged, it’s a powerful way to open the show. And it’s testament to the potency of the production that despite having seen this from the offset, as the story unfolds there still isn’t a dry eye in sight.

The emotional intensity is founded on a gorgeous on-stage chemistry between David Albury as Oliver and Victoria Serra as Jenny, who share moments of sexual frisson, tenderness, antagonism and, at times sadness. Whilst some of their duets feel like they could do with a little bit more time in the rehearsal room, the solo vocals of the two leads are just captivating, with a particular mention to Serra’s Nocturnes. Brilliant characterisation, both through the writing (Stephen Clark and Howard Goodall) and the acting, goes a long way to making the audience wholeheartedly invest in the relationship, turning on the tears.

Yet there are unanswered questions that just keep on nagging; it never quite becomes clear why the relationship between Oliver and his father is so difficult, despite it being such an important thread of the plot. And why is Jenny’s prognosis explained to Oliver rather than to her?

Performed with aching simplicity on a stripped back set, Love Story is a beautiful look at love, life, and imperfect yet important relationships. Touching from start to finish, the question is less whether you can hold back the tears, and more whether you can hold back audible sobs.

For tickets and information:

Dates: 1st October – 25th October 2014

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Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
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