The production may be downsized but the story remains epic. Lloyd Webber, Don Black and Charles Hart’s tale is a detailed portrayal of relationships which sprawls over 17 years, encased in a running time of just under three hours.
It is 1947 and Englishman Alex is a fresh-faced 19-year-old when he becomes obsessed with a French actress, Rose, whom he encounters in Montpellier. It is the start of an entangled affair which draws in Alex’s uncle George, George’s Italian lover Giulietta and eventually Rose’s daughter Jenny.
The saga would rival any soap opera plot: Alex’s spurned passion for Rose leads to an incident with a revolver; the capricious Rose collects love affairs like stamps, including a lesbian dalliance with Giulietta; and the story gets more than a little incestuous when Rose’s daughter falls for her mother’s former lover.
The aspects of love referred to by the title therefore include not only the destructive obsession between Alex and Rose, but the gentler love Rose has for George, the fatherly devotion George has for his daughter and the wide-eyed passion Jenny eventually feels for Alex.
Nunn’s second production for the Menier Chocolate Factory is played out against David Farley’s simple set, a sepia-toned living room which is a fixed backdrop for the complex story. A screen hangs in the centre of the set upon which images – photographs, landscapes, paintings – are projected, helping to conjure the myriad settings and give a sense of the passing of time. George’s Pyrenean home, where much of the action takes place, is rooted in its rural location by a clever device where windows in the set are opened to reveal the mountains behind.
American actor Michael Arden looks every bit the unsophisticated Englishman as Alex, who changes from lovestruck, petulant, hormone-charged teenager to capable, charming adult, though he remains ruled by his passions to the last. Displaying a fine soprano voice, Katherine Kingsley plays highly strung actress Rose as a woman who knows the power of her charms and will use them. Never wanting to be alone, she gathers as many lovers around her as she can, ignoring the fact that they cannot all live together as contentedly as she would like.
But for a while it seems they can. Quite why George (Dave Willetts) and the sympathetic Giulietta (Rosalie Craig) find the situation created by Rose to be acceptable is hard to fathom. Never has being unfaithful seemed so free and easy. Perhaps it is because each character is as guilty as the next in bowing to their whims of passion. Love, we hear frequently in Lloyd Webber’s score, changes everything. For the characters in Aspects Of Love things seem to change all too frequently.