The delightful Sam Harrison is, well, delightful in his lovely autobiographical show Love Is Only Love at The Other Palace
“I’m six years old, about to watch Hello, Dolly! starring Barbra Streisand for the first time, and I’m terrified”
I’ve long been a fan of Sam Harrison, ever since he shared his Salad Days with us back when I was a baby blogger. So to see him reappear on a London stage already gladdens my heart, even before you clock that he’s starring in an autobigraphical play about the establishment of his queer identity through the medium of musicals. Insert. Hearteyes. Emoji!
Love Is Only Love is running in The Other Palace’s downstairs cabaret space, the intimacy there ideal for this moving and personal show. From the moment he realises that watching Hello, Dolly! makes him feel funny inside, Harrison writes so eloquently about the formation of his own queer identity and also about how musicals helped him develop the requisite emotional articulacy.
The exhortation to ‘be yourself’ is a tricky one to unpack, particularly for – but not limited to – those in the LGBT+ communities. When queer (in all senses of the word) feelings are rising to the surface, where can you turn to see positive examples, role models, stories that say hey, you’re gonna be just fine in the grand scheme of things. In an otherwise personal show, this quietly but defiantly political message is a sobering call for us all to do better.
And on that personal side, there’s a real joy in watching a young Sam move from crush to crush (all supporting roles played by a highly game David Seadon-Young) until a stage school friendship blossoms into something more. The gentle romance is beautifully portrayed and as the pair share a growing love of song and dance and eventually each other, the stoniest of hearts would melt.
The sprinkling of songs and dances are beautifully judged, reinforcing the message about the power of a good musical particularly when words aren’t enough. And Jason Morell’s direction keeps an internal structure to the show which can sometimes seem a little freeform at times. Above all though, for all its heart-warming charms, this is a significant piece of storytelling.