Love - The Musical, Hammersmith Lyric, London

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

The Icelandic company Vesturport first swung into our attention with an exuberant aerial version of Romeo and Juliet. Created by Gisli Orn Gardarsson and Vikingur Kristjansson and seen here in an English adaptation by David Farr, their latest show could be viewed as the obverse of that. Love is an earthbound musical that celebrates the passion of two people who find love at the end of their lives. Boy meets girl; boy gets girl; girl loses boy – it's a traditional formula; except that in Love, the boy is pushing 80 and turns out to be suffering from Alzheimer's, while the girl is not much younger and meets the man of her dreams when she's dumped by her son for a brief stay in the care home where her new love is vegetating.

It was ancient wisdom that the death of sexual desire is like being unchained from a lunatic. That perception won't come as any comfort, though, to the many in whom desire persists. It's good to have a piece that confronts this issue and accurately shows how it's the younger generation who become narrow-minded when faced with evidence of a parent's sexual needs.

A pity, therefore, that Love, already a hit in Iceland, comes across as a well-meaning mess, enlivened only by the odd passage of surreal loopiness. The creators were evidently inspired, to the point of copyright-infringement, by the Young@Heart chorus, the great American troupe of senior citizens who lend a new eloquence and poignancy to the lyrics in their superb concerts of rock and pop classics. That's the aim here, too, in a production where professional actors (Julian Curry and Anna Calder-Marshall are the lovers) and a feisty community choir join forces on a ragbag score that ranges through everything from The Beatles, Stevie Wonder and David Bowie to Franz Ferdinand and the Kaiser Chiefs.

There are moments when this tactic succeeds. It's both moving and wittily subversive to have Dudley Sutton's lost, medicated loner clutch his Zimmer frame and sing a plangent rendition of "The Drugs Don't Work".

Despite sterling work from Curry (who appears in the buff at one point) and Calder-Marshall (who makes the awful "Love Story" lyric sound like real poetry), the treatment of the couple's transforming devotion is too rushed to convince. And the show feels at odds with itself: the desolate truth about dementia wrapped in a "glad to be grey" knees-up.

To 28 June (0871 22 1729)