Wednesday 29th May 2019 at the Charing Cross Theatre.
Amour is a rather odd but charming tale told in the style of a light and breezy romantic musical with dark clouds looming beautifully above. The story itself isn’t particularly gripping but what the plot lacks in substance the production makes up for with great beauty and flair, offering a great bounty of energy and charm delivered by an accomplished cast within a visually rich production.
Dusoleil (Gary Tushaw) lives a humdrum life and adores the unhappily married Isabelle (Anna O’Byrne) from afar. He develops a very singular gift and sets about using it to gain Isabelle’s attention while simultaneously doing great good in the community. As Dusoleil walks the tightrope of ethically acceptable crime, he must face the likes of comic prison guard pairing Keith Ramsay and Alistair So who are eager to catch him and make names for themselves in the process. With this pair of cockney numbskulls on his trail, our Dusoleil needs to up his game and in doing so he must face the decidedly tame villains of this ‘grown up fairytale’.
Villains take shape as Dusoleil’s loathable boss played to gurning perfection by Steven Serlin and in the horrid prosecutor played with flair by Alisdair Harvey. Dusoleil’s ineffectual Doctor lands somewhere between friend and foe for Dusoleil but for us the character is great comedy fodder thanks to Jack Reitman’s slurring glee. The ensemble also includes two fantastic actors in Elissa Churchill who entertains as the incongruously energetic Nun and the marvellous Claire Machin who is thoroughly fantastic as the local opportunist Whore.
Amour is Jeremy Sams’ English adaptation of Le Passe-Muraille by Marcel Aymè with music by Michel Legrand and Libretto by Didier Van Cauwelaert. Of all the component parts, it is Legrand’s music which shines most brightly. The lyrics are witty and playful with a particular penchant for a pun or a gorgeously timed beat between syllables which plant great fleeting and comic red herrings. Yet although there are a good number of catchy and entertaining songs here, there are also some pleasant lulled numbers which slip by without being particularly notable and in that way the plot lies unfortunately.
The idea of the pining lover will always be a relatively engaging focal point and here Dusoleil is likeable and his love interest is equally fair and likeable. But they don’t grip in any way, and nor does their story and this is not at all down to the performances of Tushaw and O’Byrne who both give wonderful performances here. It’s just that it’s all very pleasant to watch but in its joyous attachment to whimsy and ethereal scenes of Paris while in love and gifted, Amour is not particularly enthralling as a story and the tale comes to a rather disappointingly abrupt and melancholy conclusion to boot.
As a production however, Amour is beautiful to watch. It certainly entertains and the cast and creative team create some moments of real theatrical magic. Director Hannah Chissick uses the Charing Cross space beautifully, packing in plenty of romanticised visions of Paris with beautifully economic choices. Matt Cole’s choreography does likewise, bringing lots of action to the small space to create an infectious buzz of energy. In fact, the production feels all the more enticing and intimate for such spatial craftsmanship and Chissick’s direction when it comes to use of space and Adrian Gee‘s simple and versatile set gives Amour much of its aesthetic appeal and charm.
All in all, Amour is an enjoyable way to while away the hours. It’s worlds away from the chaotic reality outside the door and it’s the kind of pure and idealised escapism many are no doubt looking for right now… Perhaps its key USP though is that it stands alone and apart from much of the musical theatre scene right now, so if you’re after something more stylish than the more brash and brassy offerings of London theatre and something with a distinct air of craftsmanship about it, take a trip to Amour.
Amour is presented by Danielle Tarento and plays at the Charing Cross Theatre until June 8th 2019. You can find tickets here.