This review was originally written for The Public Reviews: http://www.thepublicreviews.com
Andy Collyer started this show by writing a song to his chlorophytum (spider plant). Now it is a one-hour musical and, bearing in mind that Andrew Lloyd Webber developed all his early hit shows from songs and concept albums, who knows what lies next? The show takes place in a park, Nik Corrall’s set being a patch of grass and a flower bed awash with multi-coloured blooms. With birds tweeting in the background, romance is definitely in the air. The park warden, having ignored the “keep off the grass” sign, arises from his slumbers to transforms into a pianist, as the show’s central character, Simon (Martin Neely) appears. The writer insists that, although his protagonists are gay, this is not an exclusively gay story and, refreshingly, there are no signs of camp stereotypes and nothing here will shock our maiden aunts or frighten the horses. Collyer sets out to explore the universal mysteries of love and friendship, not coming up with clear answers, but who ever did? Simon and others in the story are most notable for their ordinariness, facing dilemmas that are common to almost all of us. Delivering what is mostly a sung monologue (an emotional outpouring to be more exact), Neely’s Simon bares his soul, telling us how, on the rebound from a failed 23-year relationship, he becomes involved with the much younger Ben. Moving between Somerset and Essex, they embark on what proves to be a rollercoaster ride together.They each change with time and the balance in their relationship changes too, with the pressures of modern living also taking their toll. Neely’s performance is remarkably warm and engaging, bringing out every conceivable emotion and throwing in several humorous asides. It often feels as if he is having an intimate 1:1 chat with each single member of the audience. Gareth Bretherton plays lilting piano melodies to back up the singing and, in the later stages, he sings the role of Ben with a passion to match that of Neely. Jonathan O’Boyle’s staging keeps the piece as simple as it needs to be, ensuring that, to use the old cliche, there is not a a dry eye in the house at the end. This is a delightful little show, so a very big thank you to the chlorophytum.
Performance date: 1 May 2015