• Comedy/Gothic Romance
  • By Bryony Lavery
  • Director: Matthew Parker
  • Cast: Colette Eaton and Naomi Todd
  • The Hope Theatre, London
  • Until 23 December 2016
  • Review by Vera Mikusch
  • 1 December 2016
Her Aching Heart
4.0Reviewer's Rating

Prepare for a hysterically funny evening at the Hope Theatre. The cosy but naughty atmosphere throws you right into the lesbian gothic romance.

Lady Harriet (Colette Eaton) and the peasant girl Molly (Naomi Todd) end up in a passionate love affair that leaves them both heartbroken more than once. Their characters are delightfully opposites and the completely exaggerated acting highlights that beautifully. Molly couldn’t be any more sweet or dainty. She is a classic Disney princess with a very soft spot for forest animals. Spoiled Harriet on the other hand, is more of an evil stepmother. Convinced of her infallibility, she is yet clueless about the world on the opposite end of luxury. But that doesn’t work to her disadvantage. In the end, she might even get way with murder.

Even though the play is labelled as a musical, do not expect anything like a glittery Broadway piece. Without a microphone, both Naomi Todd and Colette Eaton fill the room with amazing vocals and make a little showcase out of each song between the chapters of the main story.

Just like the acting, the set design by Rachael Ryan is simply straightforward. It certainly doesn’t lack symbolism. The vivid use of colours tells us immediately what to expect from the characters. The stage background colour is even matched to the costumes, especially for the characters’ introduction. The stage is coated in full-bodied red velvet at Harriet’s opening scene. With vibrant red and black gothic lingerie hidden under a luxurious purple coat, she is the devil in disguise. Molly on the other hand is a good-hearted maiden with a perfectly white dress and pink ribbons on her corsage and so is her background. The red velvet cloth is dropped to reveal a white set up, as she bursts into the room with all her emotions out in the open.

The fizzy comedy is set in two different worlds. But the switch from the frame story set in our time, to the poetic setting of the 18th century is not always quite clear. While we get plenty of background information on Molly and Harriet, the girls of the frame story are not really put into context, which would have been a nice addition at the end of the day. However, the simultaneous telling of both stories gives the end a really nice twist that satisfies both the romantic and the comedy aspect.

In all it’s silliness, the play doesn’t fail to get to your soft side and makes you share the thrill of the heroines’ most emotional moments. This parody of passion is yet sincere.

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