Thursday, 26 June 2014

Gilbert and Sullivan: An witty and upbeat opera that pokes fun out of miserable poets and romantics ****



Taking place in one of the very first Elizabethan pub theatres, the King’s Head Theatre, is a contemporary and polished version of W.S Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan’s ‘Patience.’ Directed by John Savournin of the Charles Court theatre sees a comedy opera on the rapturous undertakings of the aesthetic movement during 1870s-80s England, but with a satirical twist according to Gilbert. These aesthetes of the time included William Morris and even Oscar Wilde who felt that Victorian values stifled art and literature.

With such a witty libretto with a –rather- rapid tempo, all singers appeared vigilant about their poetically lengthy lyrics and like a game of lexical gymnastics, required use of  ‘very sophisticated’ vocabulary.

Two poets, Bunthorne (David Phipps-Davis) and Archibald (Henry Manning) fall in love with barmaid, Patience (Joanna Marie Skillett) yet, even though she favours Archibald, she understands love to be a selfless act as to love someone who not only returns her love but identifies themselves as a ‘trustee of beauty’ and perfection would be selfish. Gilbert’s mockery of these poets is heightened with the hilarity from the maidens played by Helen Evora, Andrea Tweedale and Amy J Payne as Lady Jane, who unlike Patience, desperately stalk and pursue these intellectual pups. This is parodied against the try-hard philistine men of the Dragoon Guards (Giles Davies, Michael Kerry and David Menezes.) Dressed in handsome soldier uniform they over-think the melancholic maidens’ preference for ‘early English’ men of poetic virtuoso and have a hand (later on) in dressing badly as clown and member of Led Zeppelin. Yet it’s just a ploy to capture the maidens’ hearts, which manages to work even if they have no idea of what they are doing.

David Eaton, music director and resilient pianist remained cool under pressure for a demanding and jolly score considering numerous catchy group choruses.  And Phipps-Davis’s dramatic and self-indulgent ‘Bunthorne’ is an easily likable character given his skill for accentuating every syllable and vowel. His voice, 17th century attire and wig thanks to Carrie Edwards gave him some note worthy praises.

Payne’s ‘Lady Jane’ is a frustrated devotee of Bunthorne who sing lavishly about her insecurities regarding her appearance whilst considering opening a bag of Walker’s crisps. Yet she manages to make the audience giggle through her woes and received the most applause. Whilst in Act 2,  Skillett stares into the audience as innocent Patience through her eloquent singing which drags viewers out of the jolly mood for a moment of sorrow.

If you want to see a comedy show laden with jokes that will uplift your spirits, look no further. There are special scenes including Archibald succumbing to Burnthorne’s moaning that result in a re-vamped Archibald with baseball cap, jeans and a funny South London. He enters accompanied by the once Goth-like Evora and Tweedale who turn into chavs operatically referencing  ‘TK Maxx‘ and ‘Sports Direct.’ This opera pokes fun out of the old-day version of our modern day hipster and EMO personalities. There’s no need to like poetry either to enjoy the performance, so happy frolicking!

This production has ended, but please click here for more shows and information on the Kings Head Pub.