Express G&S


Wilton’s Music Hall

EXPRESS G&S at Wilton’s Music Hall



“the perfect antidote to the August lull in London theatre”


Express G&S is a spoof of all the things we love about comic operas, murder mysteries and music hall, all mashed up together. It’s a good match for the real Victorian music hall that is Wilton’s in London’s East End. The show is a fun evening, gift wrapped by the Charles Court Opera to include three cheeky performers and a master of ceremonies who doubles as the energetic pianist. Express G&S is familiar territory for the Company, and they pull it off with their usual aplomb.

The show is exactly what it says it is—a medley of songs from Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operas, sung in abridged versions, and produced at speed. Part of the fun is figuring out which operas Charles Court Opera have stolen their musical ideas from, because the lyrics have been changed to suit the murder mystery theme of Express G&S. So forget the plots of Mikado, Iolanthe, and Ruddigore, to name just a few. This story is about a strangely familiar French sounding detective named Philippe Pierrot, traveling on a train in England. When Bridget, the maid responsible for serving teas on the train, discovers that her doily cart has been vandalized, Pierrot is persuaded to take on the case of discovering who could have done such a dastardly deed. Bridget and Reggie, the conductor who loves her, are not above suspicion, either. If you’re already groaning at the outrageous puns and silly rhymes, fasten your seat belts. There’s lots more in store with these lyrical voleurs.

Matthew Kellett is on top form as the dapper Detective Pierrot, and your breath will be taken away by the versatility of the quick role changing Catrine Kirkman (Bridget and other roles) and Matthew Siveter (Reggie and other roles). It’s not just the costumes that get changed either. The variety of roles mean that Kirkman and Siveter have to switch their singing styles as well. They do all this brilliantly, and give Kellett’s magnificent voice (and terrible French—or is it Belgian?—accent) a real run for the money. Director and writer John Savournin keeps the action moving along, although the slenderness of the plot does mean that the show is more than usually dependent on the music to keep things interesting. Lyricist and musical director David Eaton is a real star—a worthy heir of W.S Gilbert in the silly rhymes department. He’s also a wonderfully lively accompanist to the singers. The set, designed by Jessie Huckin, is workmanlike, though a bit lost on Wilton’s sizable stage. Express G&S is an intimate show, set on a train, and Huckin’s set is perhaps better suited to a smaller venue.

Express G&S is the perfect antidote to the August lull in London theatre, when nearly everyone is either on holiday, or up in Edinburgh. Don’t let the deceptive calm of the Big Smoke depress your spirits, however. The Charles Court Opera is here to raise them, and you should hurry on down to Wilton’s while you can. If the show feels short at seventy five minutes, that’s just to whet your appetite for all the good things coming your way later in the year. And you should definitely keep a careful eye out for the annual Charles Court Opera’s panto in December, which never fails to please.

EXPRESS G&S at Wilton’s Music Hall

Reviewed on 15th August 2023

by Dominica Plummer

Photography by Bill Knight



Previously reviewed at this venue:


The Mikado | ★★★★ | June 2023
Ruddigore | ★★★ | March 2023
Charlie and Stan | ★★★★★ | January 2023
A Dead Body In Taos | ★★★ | October 2022
Patience | ★★★★ | August 2022
Starcrossed | ★★★★ | June 2022
The Ballad of Maria Marten | ★★★½ | February 2022
The Child in the Snow | ★★★ | December 2021

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