Tag Archives: Matthew Siveter




Wilton’s Music Hall

PATIENCE at the Wilton’s Music Hall




“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


HMS Pinafore

King’s Head Theatre

HMS Pinafore

HMS Pinafore

King’s Head Theatre

Reviewed – 16th April 2019



“a wonderful example of the mastery of Gilbert and Sullivan’s waggish, Victorian wit and beautifully accessible melodies holding up to time”


Often disparagingly relegated to second division opera, Gilbert and Sullivan’s works, in collaboration with Richard D’Oyly Carte, consciously moved away from improvised music hall entertainment to develop a niche genre of English light opera using familiar, stock characters and chorus in ‘topsy-turvy’ plots; ‘HMS Pinafore’ is one of their earliest and best-known productions, which pioneered this innovation. Their first international hit, it satirises the unqualified in positions of power and the stigma of social status in relationships. Both the Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph Porter and Captain Corcoran have unmerited ranks of authority and when the Captain’s daughter falls in love with a common sailor, attitudes are challenged in true ‘G and S’ style. The Charles Court Opera Company cleverly brings to life the timelessness of these issues by fast-forwarding to the 1950s and adapts the reduced cast by submerging the crew in a submarine.

The vocal individuality of the company paints a colourful picture of the tangled web of privilege and prejudice and each singer brings a facet to the stage – in particular, Joseph Shovelton’s ease and comic timing as Sir Joseph Porter, Hannah Crerar’s (Bobstay) radiant voice and presence, Alys Roberts as Josephine, maintaining sobriety with a moving “The Hours Creep on Apace” and Catrine Kirkman’s quirky Cousin Hebe who, single-handedly, makes up for Sir Joseph’s original gaggle of female relatives. The ensembles are generally well-balanced throughout, though Matthew Kellett as Dick Deadeye is sometimes overpowered in the company songs and Jennie Jacobs’ (Buttercup) projection fluctuates with her change of register.

Transferring HMS Pinafore to the recent past with Rachel Szmukler’s functional, retro set and bright, vintage costumes and incorporating more contemporary choreography (Damian Czarnecki), director John Savounin builds a fittingly up-to-date adaptation. The acting is perfectly attuned to the size of the venue and the variety of moods creates a captivating fluidity, combining with David Eaton’s musical expertise to illustrate an ironically significant point without losing the enjoyable, traditional charm; only, perhaps, without a ship of men, does the corresponding role of Buttercup become somewhat ambiguous within the modern set-up. This is a wonderful example of the mastery of Gilbert and Sullivan’s waggish, Victorian wit and beautifully accessible melodies holding up to time in an amusing and enticing evening. William and Arthur would undoubtedly be tickled pink to see how little life has changed since they wrote Pinafore and particularly the current feelings and poignancy of mocking pride in “He is an Englishman”.


Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

Photography by Robert Workman


HMS Pinafore

King’s Head Theatre until 11th May


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Brexit | ★★★★★ | November 2018
Buttons: A Cinderella Story | ★★★★ | November 2018
Momma Golda | ★★★ | November 2018
The Crumple Zone | ★★ | November 2018
Outlying Islands | ★★★★ | January 2019
Carmen | ★★★★ | February 2019
Timpson: The Musical | ★★★ | February 2019
The Crown Dual | ★★★★ | March 2019
Undetectable | ★★★★ | March 2019
Unsung | ★★★½ | April 2019


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