Hope Theatre, London – until 23 December 2016
Quirky, exaggerated entertainment is just one way to describe this show, which combines fiction and reality quite effectively.
Bryony Lavery’s Her Aching Heart really proclaims to many different things:a musical, a love story, a parody of romantic fiction novels and a comedy. By trying to combine all of these in one show it is an extraordinarily melodramatic piece of work that loses focus frequently and can be difficult to get into.
Switching between modern day life and the fictional pages of a Mills and Boon type book in which aristocrats and innocent maidens pursue one another, Her Aching Heart features a wide variety of characters, all played flamboyantly well by Collette Eaton and Naomi Todd.
Matthew Parker directs a production that really thrives on the ridiculousness of the piece, particularly when it comes to the demise of the woodland creatures that is a constant joke throughout. But yet, there is still something a bit flat about it – lacking in energy and enthusiasm in places, particularly in the final couple of ‘chapters’ which seem to be rushed through.
Yet the exaggerated performances of both Collette Eaton (Harriet) and Naomi Todd (Molly) keep the audience chuckling throughout with every character change and exaggerated movement as seen during a well choreographed fight scene, that while the style takes some getting used to they ensure that you are gradually won over.
The main issue with the musical is that it relies on the same jokes time and time again which suggests a need for new ideas and some longing glances between characters go on for a touch too long that is in danger of losing the comedy effect.
But the way in which it combines the modern relationship between Molly and Harriet to the fictional book of Her Aching Heart is well done and ensures that the piece flows well and for the most part means the comedy timing is on point.
It’s quirky nature will appeal to a lot of people, but overall it feels as though it is trying too hard to be likeable that it lacking in energy and flair in places, but it is worth watching for the performances of Collette Eaton and Naomi Todd, who are consistent throughout.
Her Aching Heart continues to play at the Hope Theatre until the 23rd December. For more information and to book tickets visit: http://www.thehopetheatre.com/productions/her-aching-heart/