BWW Review: LOVE GENIUS AND A WALK, Drayton Arms Theatre

BWW Review: LOVE GENIUS AND A WALK, Drayton Arms Theatre

BWW Review: LOVE GENIUS AND A WALK, Drayton Arms TheatreFreud! Mahler! Love! Sex! Money! Music!

There's a lot to work with there (as Ken Russell knew in his crazy 1974 biopic) but Gay Walley's leaden script crushes the life out of the music (barely heard), the characters (barely developed) and the set (barely there). We're all prepared to suspend disbelief when we cross the threshold of a fringe theatre, but three chairs in garish green and sparkling silver that looked like they were hastily purloined from a dentist's waiting room? Really?

So the cast have a lot to do, as they not so much converse with each other, as announce at each other (for an all-female production team to include this quantum of mansplaining seems almost perverse). It can feel a little like they're reading chunks of Wikipedia - people, even people like this - just do not talk like that.

But Alma speaks of love with her withdrawn husband Gustav and flirts with her soon-to-be lover, Walter Gropius. In parallel, present day scenes, a Mahler obsessed writer speaks at her husband, financier, Steve, who speaks back at her. And Mahler gets a bit of therapy for free from the Doctor as they walk and shoot the breeze about mummy and daddy problems.

None of it convinces for a second. Alma is played as a coquettish girl by Chloe Booyens - one wonders how she ever bewitched such men (and she really did) and how she was ever an artist in her own right (and she really was). Lloyd Morris gives us a one-pitched Mahler, all work and no play making him a dull boy.

Helen Cunningham and Benjamin Murray do what they can with their odd, but successful couple, but how did they ever get together? They appear to share nothing, so as they drift apart - their relationship mirroring Gustav and Alma's over a century later - though it seems inevitable. And the stakes appear so low (no kids, no money problems, no love to lose) as to be unworthy of more than a shrug on our part. Meh...

Brendan Wyer's Freud has some of the man's energy and passion, but we get little of his thinking, never getting much beyond some of Woody Allen's pastiches of analysis from Annie Hall or Manhattan. Ashleigh Cole gets some laughs as her parade of starstruck passers-by go fangirly around the distinguished pair, interrupting their walk - I believed that bit!

The play rather sprawls at about 90 minutes without an interval and could really do with more of Mahler's music to break things up a little. But what it needs most are that fundamental starting point for all theatre - characters in whom we believe and about whom we care.

Love, Genius and a walk continues at the Drayton Arms Theatre until 14 October.

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From This Author Gary Naylor

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