Love Is Only Love

Reviewer's rating

Know what the best thing about reviewing is? Every now and then, if you’re lucky, and the circumstances dictate, you get sent as a last minute replacement to review a show you know nothing about, and you end up falling in love with it.

Well, that’s exactly what happened with me last night as I was privileged to see Sam Harrison’s Love is Only Love downstairs at The Other Palace.

The show started life back in 2018 with a one-off performance at the same venue then, after some workshopping, returned in 2019 for a run as part of TOP’s Pride Festival. 2020 saw the show move to Chichester’s Minerva Theatre but then, like so much else, Covid put a stop to further plans.It’s now back, but only until 15th May, so get and buy a ticket!

Its genesis was as a bet. The writer, Sam Harrison, ‘wanted to write  , and which had a happy ending. It should be a romance with song and dance, and include standards from the golden age of mid 20th century musicals’.

Quite some ask.

Director, Jason Morell, bet him £100 he couldn’t do it. Harrison, not having £100 at the time, had to. The rest, as they say, is showbiz!The story Harrison landed on was…well, his own.

The child of loving parents who didn’t try and force him to do things he didn’t want to (when it became clear he wasn’t cut out for playing rugby, his father took him to ballet lessons…), the show is simultaneously a charmingly sweet coming of age story, and a love letter to musical theatre.A young Sam Harrison is introduced to Jerry Herman via the video of the 1969 big screen Hello Dolly and becomes enraptured by the transformative emotional power of great art. From then on we see him at various points in his life. Holding hands. His first kiss. From the age of six to eleven, twelve, when his crushes on older boys, then fourteen with his first ‘proper’ relationship, and falling in love. All played out with a poignant and often hilarious score of standards form Hello Dolly, and the Gershwins, and with the help of David Seadon-Young who plays all of the other characters with such accuracy that you forget he isn’t actually a fourteen year old boy laughing at fart jokes… Seadon-Young’s rather puerile teenager, ‘Mark’, turns out to be Harrison’s first great love and heartbreak.

I won’t give away the whole plot – such as it is – but can honestly say Harrison seems to have had the sort of mother every gay man can only dream of having. Having met her in the bar before the show, and not knowing who she was, I ended up sitting next to her and believe me, and she’s every bit the delight that she’s portrayed as on stage.

Much as I love Angels in America, and It’s a Sin they’re about a particular time in ‘gay history’, and though clearly a very important part of it, they aren’t everything, and the time which they illustrate is thankfully past.

But they didn’t tell my story. Love is Only Love doesn’t tell my story either being a sort of charming, beautifully told, middle-class Beautiful Thing. But what it does tell is a story I wish was mine.  Love is Only Love is about hope. It’s about futures. And above all it’s about happiness and normality. And if showtunes and a little bit of sparkle are in there to make it go with a zing, I’m all for it.