Thursday, 5 May 2022

Stage: So in love

Love Is Only Love
by Sam Harrison
director Jason Morell
with Sam Harrison, David Seadon-Young
lighting David Howe
choreography Nicky Griffiths
musical director John Reddel
The Other Palace Studio, London • 29.Apr-15.May.22

Returning to The Other Palace after its pre-pandemic sold-out run, this buoyant two-man show is a personal memoir expressed through the prism of iconic Broadway musicals. It's wonderfully comical and evocative, a reminder of those yearning expectations about love that are so superbly expressed in song on stage. Writer-performer Sam Harrison recounts his story with energy, humour and deep emotions that are never sentimentalised. And it's the refreshingly positive story of a gay man who ultimately finds true romance.

With only two chairs on the stage, Harrison begins at age 6 with his discovery of Hello Dolly, which awakened something inexplicable inside him and sparked a desire to find a love of his own. His father begrudgingly accepted that he wouldn't follow him as a rugby star, so instead enrolled his son in ballet class. As the years pass, Harrison is joined by David Seadon-Young, playing a variety of other people in his life, including several boys he found attractive for many different reasons. This leads to depictions of a few extended relationships as a teen and later.

Throughout the show, key moments are heightened with classic Broadway numbers, performed in a lovely stripped-down style by Harrison, Seadon-Young and pianist John Reddel. Nicky Griffiths' exuberant choreography inventively fills the small studio stage, most memorably as Seadon-Young performs a hilariously over-confident number as a very young dance student. Even with the minimalist staging, there are lovely little touches along the way as Harrison contextualises love for family, friends, crushes and lovers.

Harrison has terrific presence, conveying his hopefulness as he seeks for meaning and understanding in the world around him. Thankfully, darker issues like coming out and homophobia remain deep in the subtext, as the script focusses on connections and understanding. Harrison creates delightful textures in the various relationships played out with Seadon-Young, who rises to the considerable demands of each role with layered explosions of sparky comedy and emotion. Both actors have soaring voices and easy physicality, providing likeable details that make this show unusually resonant. What lingers is the celebration of the joy of falling in love. And how beautifully classic Broadway composers expressed that in song.

For information, visit THE OTHER PALACE >

photos by Manuel Harlan • 4.May.22

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