One Love of Your Life, Selfless & True, Lasting Forever
| By Kay Johal
At first glance, on paper, this show shouldn’t work. It Happened In Key West is based on a controversial topic, and add to the mixture singing and dancing, humour and farce, it has all the ingredients for an interesting night at Charing Cross Theatre. There is an element of Tim Burton-esque macabre and I was interested to see how this show would unfold. What makes this piece and this company all the more special is that they have not ventured too far from the original. It is worth noting this is a true story, with a touching tenderness which translates from the stage to the audience very well.
Count Carl von Cosel (Wade McCollum) is bumblingly awkward. Highly intelligent, but lacking in common sense. He has 39 degrees you know, many of them science, but he isn’t a doctor. No matter. Washed up in Key West he lands a job as a radiographer at the local hospital. Enter Elena (Alyssa Martin) with a terminally hacking cough that no amount of honey and lemon can cure. Man and woman meet, man falls desperately in love, woman has husband. Our dashing non-doctor makes it his mission to save her life, and in doing so, promises to protect, treasure and love her even in death. Elena loves Carl but is not in love with Carl. A small but salient point.
The first act sets the scene very well. This is a cohesive cast and they take on multiple roles which, whilst blending well, can be confusing. There is constant movement on stage. The dance scene between Carl and Elena is light and evocative, making good use of what is a very basic set. McCollum manages to portray with both dignity and integrity in ‘Undying Love’ the heartbreak and emptiness the Count is feeling; and more so, that in vulnerability lies strength. The second act is stronger, it is comical, emotive, sensitive, and at times, shattering. The show has an ability to switch from tragically sad to hysterically funny in a split second whilst retaining its charm.
It is a story that feels like one you have heard a dozen times before yet completely original at the same time, unrequited love, the tsunami of emotions that arise from your soul when you see someone for the first time and know they have altered your path forever. The themes of love and heartbreak are so familiar to us all and the fact that it is a true story makes it all the more gripping. When does love become obsession?
It Happened In Key West is at its core a love story. And whilst remaining true to its core, it has allowed a wider perception to be gained and more notably understood, and that should be applauded.
It Happened In Key West is playing at the Charing Cross Theatre until 18 August. Book your tickets here.