Photo: First Name Basis Productions
Photo: First Name Basis Productions

Wasted Love
Dir. Mark Gregory
***

From heartbreak to healing, Wasted Love follows the difficult path taken by a group of charming – if bizarre – individuals seeking serenity in a support group for the unlucky-in-love. Simultaneously touching and outrageous, Mark Gregory presents what is fundamentally a thoroughly enjoyable show, but one that is plagued by annoyances.

Over the initial third of the show, I was gearing up to gush out praise throughout this review: the musical numbers were nothing short of hilarious, delivered with conviction and spirit, occasionally featuring the neat touch of performers doggedly addressing individual members of the audience during ballads with subject matters that can only be described as ‘hysterically uncomfortable’. The production revels in its comedy and a whopping grin found itself plastered across my face. The cast clearly enjoy performing the show and give their all for the laughs.

All too quickly, however, did this become less of a blessing and more of a curse. It was difficult to make out any strong chemistry among the performers who, having realised how funny the show was, strove to pin down any laugh possible. The stage became an arena in a battle for focus, proving frustrating and distracting. So, too, did this cause many of the more moving later scenes to appear disingenuous.

Fortunately this was not always true. As the show drew to a close and the opportunity to seize a laugh diminished, genuine emotion began to shine through. This was particularly true of Emma Taylor’s heartfelt song of healing and the beautiful closing number.

Meg Asano has done a splendid job with the choreography which always enhanced and never detracted, yet while on the whole executed well, it could sometimes become a little sloppy or cluttered in the small space.

Somewhat surprisingly, vocal blending was not always on the mark. Certain numbers blended magnificently, so it came as a shock that on other occasions specific voices totally overpowered others.

These, though, are very minor technical niggles that in themselves are not sufficient to dock a star. In fact, Wasted Love comes within spitting distance of four stars, but the feeling that the ‘truth’ of the show is sold for laughter is simply too strong. The script and the characters are inherently amusing and they do not have to be played up to: the characters may be archetypes, but are far from two-dimensional. As it was, characterisation was not as clear or as believable as it could be.

It needs reiterating that this is a thoroughly enjoyable show, but one that suffers from appearing shallow. A small shift in focus from comedy to character would easily have made Wasted Love one of the best shows of the year.

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