Chichester’s “Love Story” is a stunner

Posted by RDN under Mind & body on 25 June 2010

Forty years on and Erich Segal’s “Love Story” makes a surprisingly spikey and yet delicious show in Chichester Festival Theatre’s Minerva Theatre.

More soon on this, I hope. For now I just wanted to stress that this show entirely overcomes the very reasonable prejudices that one really ought to have about it. You know how it ends. You know it’s littered with really goofy life-coach cliches. You know you’re supposed to cry. This production makes you forget the lurking resentment you feel at being jerked-around.

Howard Goodall’s songs are both lush and subtle. Stephen Clark’s lyrics are sharply witty. They are beautifully sung by people with lovely, sound voices. For such a conversation piece, there is some exhilarating stage business (the stuff in the kitchen scene is a subdued riot). From the moment you walk in, you feel that this is going to be a high-end Minerva show: intimate and energetic. It’s occasionally full-on, but there’s no shrillness.

Emma Williams is outstanding as Jenny Cavilleri, the girl who dies. It’s not a showy performance but she is every inch the vital, stroppy, loving, intelligent young woman. What sticks in the mind was her toughness throughout.

I don’t remember the film, though I must have seen it, and I never read the novel. Anyway, this version rightly concentrates on the suffering of the two fathers. As Jenny herself says, Oliver (the husband and widower) will bounce back. It is one of her excellent unsentimental moments.

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