Tag Archives: Catrine Kirkman

Patience

Patience

★★★★

Wilton’s Music Hall

PATIENCE at the Wilton’s Music Hall

★★★★

 

Patience

“retains the wit and eloquence of the original while throwing in modern references and context”

 

“All art is quite useless”. So says Oscar Wilde in his preface to his only novel, ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’. Wilde may be considered the forerunner of the Art for Art’s Sake aesthetic movement of the late nineteenth century, yet it was William S. Gilbert’s libretto for the Gilbert and Sullivan musical “Patience” that helped to create the image that Wilde would adopt. The central character, Reginald Bunthorne, was thought to have been modelled on Wilde whereas it was, in fact, the other way round.

“Patience”, one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s lesser performed comic operas, is a gentle satire on the whole movement of the time, but also targets the ephemeral nature of fashion, hero-worship, vanity and meaningless fads. Which is why it lends itself so well to being set in today’s society. Charles Court Opera do just that with their customary skill and inventiveness. Set in an English pub called ‘The Castle’, complete with dartboard, real ale and shot glasses, designer Simon Bejer dresses the characters in a mix of Belle Époque, Goth and Steampunk. We could be anytime, anyplace, anywhere; but we know it’s pretty contemporary. The language, too, retains the wit and eloquence of the original while throwing in modern references and context.

Wilton’s Music Hall is a difficult space acoustically and often suffers when amps are plugged in. Charles Court Opera rely on just piano and the nine glorious voices of the company. Because of illness, director John Savournin has boldly, and rather magnificently, stepped into the role of the effete and flowery poet, Bunthorne. Fawning over him are the Ladies Angela, Saphir and Jane (Meriel Cunningham, Jennie Jacobs and Catrine Kirkman); a tight knit trio in perfect harmony but each with an individualism that allows them to break away into gorgeous solo moments. Particularly Kirkman who opens the second act with ‘Sad is that Woman’s Lot’, lamenting the cruel effects of time while desperately trying to ignore the temptations of the Walker’s crisps on the bar.

The male counterparts are equally impressive. Matthew Palmer, Dominic Bowe and David Menezes are the Dragoon Guards returning to reclaim their Ladies’ hearts, but to no avail. They tackle the quick-fire lyrical challenges with ease, turning each tongue-twister into finely tuned punchlines. Matthew Siveter, as the hilariously vain Archibald Grosvenor who steers the ladies’ affections away from Bunthorne, bursts with satirical humour, at first relishing the attention, then wearying of the synthetic textures of this thing called ‘romantic love’. After all, he only has eyes for his childhood sweetheart, the eponymous Patience (Catriona Hewitson). The barmaid of the Castle Pub, she is thankful she’s never been in love, seeing how miserable it seems to make everybody. Hewitson charms the audience with a simple logic, crystal clear delivery, and striking soprano; and winning our hearts with a standout ‘Love is a Plaintive Song’.

The delivery of the dialogue is sometimes overwrought and unnecessarily hammed up, which the comedy doesn’t really need. The cast have enough presence to reach the far corners of the hall. We feel their joy too as. When “Patience” opened in 1881, Gilbert thought the show’s appeal would prove just as ephemeral as its subject matter, and wouldn’t be appreciated in years to come. Thankfully, Charles Court Opera have proved him wrong with their classy, timeless, imaginative and virtuosic production.

 

 

Reviewed on 24th August 2022

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Bill Knight

 

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:

 

Roots | ★★★★★ | October 2021
The Child in the Snow | ★★★ | December 2021
The Ballad of Maria Marten | ★★★½ | February 2022
Starcrossed | ★★★★ | June 2022

Click here to read all our latest reviews

 

EXPRESS G&S

Express G&S

★★★★

Pleasance Theatre

 EXPRESS G&S

Express G&S

Pleasance Theatre

Reviewed – 23rd June 2021

★★★★

 

 

“Highly inventive and witty, it is Gilbert & Sullivan meets Agatha Christie meets Monty Python”

 

Fifteen months on from the first lockdown, as we approach the possibility of most restrictions being lifted on July 19th, conversations still tend to focus on the havoc and devastation the pandemic has wreaked on society – particularly the arts. But it is still possible to reflect, too, on the positives; and the way that many institutions and individuals have had to adapt. The well-known proverb, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ has taken centre stage this past year. One such company is the award-winning Charles Court Opera (who are certainly not short of inventiveness in the first place). Their most recent pantomime, ‘Snow White in the Seven Months of Lockdown, was filmed exclusively for online release in collaboration with the King’s Head Theatre, and have just released a cast recording of ‘Iolanthe’.

Their latest work, “Express G&S”, was conceived during lockdown, starting out as a ‘Reduced Shakespeare’ inspired exploration of all the Gilbert & Sullivan operas. The needs of social distancing restrictions called the shots, leading to a condensed cast, accompanied by one pianist. As with most great ideas, it was probably ill advised. How to perform the complete works of Gilbert & Sullivan in just seventy-five minutes! But thankfully they persevered, and it grew and spiralled to become a kind of ‘murder mystery’. Fairly light on murder or mystery, it is weighed with nuance, comedy, imagination, cleverness, and delightful silliness. It maintains the air of a Victorian parlour entertainment while fitting in perfectly into the twenty-first century.

A motley crew of outlandish characters are portrayed by Matthew Kellett, Catrine Kirkman and Philip Lee, supported by Musical Director David Eaton on piano. Eaton also ingeniously adapted the lyrics of the many of Gilbert and Sullivan pastiches that run through the show. Sometimes tweaking, sometimes replacing completely, Eaton is a master of the craft, and with John Savournin’s book and direction we are taken on a glorious joyride through the G&S repertoire. There are references to all the works. I must hold up my hand and admit to most of them flying over my head, but I did catch a few of the more oblique ones that tried to slip by me.

But even if you are a complete stranger to the Victorian operatic duo, there is more than enough to feast upon. Kellett joins the G&S Express as a passenger before being drawn into the mystery aboard the train. Adopting the mantle of Inspector Pierrot, he has to deal with an assortment of oddballs, played variously by Kirkman and Lee. The solving of the mystery is a mere side-line. What pulls focus are the joyous performances and the virtuosity of tackling the musical numbers. On the surface there is a casualness; an almost throwaway quality to the piece which belies the hard work and clockwork precision that is needed to pull off this sort of show.

Highly inventive and witty, it is Gilbert & Sullivan meets Agatha Christie meets Monty Python. It is the very model of a modern major mash up. Another triumph for Charles Court Opera.

 

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Bill Knight

 


Express G&S

Pleasance Theatre until 2nd July

 

Other shows reviewed at this venue this year:
Ginger Johnson & Pals | ★★★★ | Pleasance Theatre | June 2021
Godot is a Woman | ★★★½ | Pleasance Theatre | June 2021

 

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