tue 18/06/2024

Patience, Charles Court Opera, Wilton's Music Hall review - bar room bliss | reviews, news & interviews

Patience, Charles Court Opera, Wilton's Music Hall review - bar room bliss

Patience, Charles Court Opera, Wilton's Music Hall review - bar room bliss

Perfect cast of nine delivers big laughs and fair share of vocal glamour

Melancholy maidens they: Catrine Kirkman as Lady Jane, Meriel Cunningham as Lady Angela and Jennie Jacobs as Lady Saphir

“Twenty lovesick maidens we,” pining in stained-glass attitudes for florid poet Reginald Bunthorne, usually kick off Gilbert and Sullivan’s delicious mockery of the high (or cod) aesthetical. That might have been a problem for Charles Court Opera’s total cast of nine. Not so: the lights go up on three “melancholy”, Goth-sh maybe not-quite-“maidens", knocking it back at the bar of the Castle Inn, and we know we’re in the best of hands. The delight is unmodified over the next two hours.

That includes the late replacement for the lead sham-aesthete; Matthew Kellett was ill, and while we wish him well, there was undisguised delight that today’s infallible high priest of Savoyard style, the show’s director John Savournin, was the one to take up the poses. I anticipated that it might be a bit like a revelatory evening at the café-theatre of Katoomba in Australia’s Blue Mountains, where the stage manager stepped in to the lead role for Summer of the Seventeenth Doll and wowed us all, even with script in hand. Savournin needed no script, other than Bunthorne’s book of poetic musings for the third verse of his Act One solo, where lines had been modified to turn the lily-lover into a more modern would-be philosopher.

Oozing on with kohl-rimmed eyes and projecting invertebrate languor - inevitably there are no photos as yet - Savournin didn’t even need to open his mouth to make us laugh. Still, Gilbert’s dazzling text got extra nuance throughout (like the need to consult the book for the fourth word of Bunthorne’s masterly poem “Oh, Hollow! Hollow! Hollow!"),  The beauty of his casting and directing is that everyone else came up to his mark in one way or another. Catriona Hewitson as PatienceThere was special vocal glamour from super-musical soprano Catriona Hewitson’s Patience (pictured above with Meriel Cunningham's Lady Angela) - a barmaid, not a milkmaid, which works fine despite Grosvenor's "The Magnet and the Churn" losing a bit of relevance; from the perfect G&S tenor David Menezes as Lieutenant the Duke of Dunstable of the Dragoon Guards;  and from Matthew Siveter playing up poet-rival Archibald Grosvenor as ardent baritone (the face made for comedy actually made the lines about being beauteous all the funnier). Our three Bunthorne groupies were perfect, too: Meriel Cunningham's Lady Angela and Jennie Jacobs' Lady Saphir glamorous in their get-up, razor-sharp funny in their delivery, Catrine Kirkman as Lady Jane (pictured below with Menezes and Matthew Palmer as Colonel Calverley) living up to the comic genius of her chav Plaintiff in the CCO Trial by Jury (where Savournin appeared as a Judge Judy of sorts) with a plausible characterisation of an older hipster, knowing where to modify the mockery,

Of course one missed the double-bass Jane tries to master at the beginning of Act Two; memories of Felicity Palmer actually playing it in a vintage Prom conducted by Charles Mackerras are indelible. Even so, “Silvered is the Raven Hair” saw a plausible and still-funny approach to Gilbert’s tricky let’s-laugh-at-the-past-it-dame habit. And music director David Eaton's tireless artistry at the piano made one miss the orchestra less than usual, with chamber-musical gains. Catrine Kirkman as Lady JaneWith no chorus, the nonet sometimes made it feel like Così-plus. The virtuoso Act One double chorus had special sharpness, and what beauty in the wistful ensemble of short-lived contentment which gives the Act 1 finale a much-needed gilding along the lines of “Hail, Poetry!” in The Pirates of Penzance. And the updating works. Whenever anyone asks “which is the best Savoy opera?”, the answer has to be “the one I’ve seen most recently”. And Patience’s special claim rests with the unbridled vivacity of three Act Two numbers – two duets (Bunthorne/Jane, later Bunthorne/Grosvenor) and the joyous partner-swapping Quintet which also provides the perfect curtain-music. Yet it’s easy to trip up with too much camp or sloppy movement; Savournin’s work in the skill of the reimagining and the projection of the text is perfection itself. You won't see a better opera/operetta production this year.

There was undisguised delight that today’s infallible high priest of Savoyard style, the show’s director John Savournin, took up the poses


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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