Tag Archives: Simon Bejer




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

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Review of Kiki’s Delivery Service – 5 Stars



Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 15th August 2017





“Utterly enchanting …”



This story of a thirteen year old witch who has to leave home, accompanied only by her cat, to find a new town where she can be useful, is utterly enchanting. Kiki is played by Jennifer Leong, who is completely believable as an enthusiastic and not always competent young teenage witch. Her companion is Jiji the cat, a deceptively simple puppet brought to life by the skill of Thomas Gilbey. Although the puppet is much smaller than Gilbey we forget that Jiji is not real because he is given such personality through subtlety of movement and voice. Gilbey meows beautifully!

Kiki grows up a little during the play, finding her way through difficulties and excitement with the help of Charleen Qwaye’s Osono, a baker in the town. Qwaye’s warmth in this role is palpable and her patience and care for the young witch are touching. Apart from Leong, all the cast play multiple characters, and they do it with panache and an amazing ability to change both costume and character in seconds.

There are some deliciously camp moments such as Stevie Raine’s fashion designer really not liking Kiki’s dress, and a hilarious array of characters, including bitchy teens, a pompous mayor, an horrendous nephew and a florist with attitude. Matthew Durkan’s Tombo is a sweet boy who is fascinated by flying and who becomes Kiki’s firm friend. Tombo is instantly lovable and Durkan plays him with huge charm. Kiki’s parents, Kokiri and Okino, are played by Kanako Nakano and Stevie Raine. They are the background to Kiki’s adventure, reluctantly sending their daughter off on her new life. Nakano also plays the horrendous nephew with great glee. They are a hugely talented ensemble.

Kate Hewitt’s direction is pitch perfect and bold. She knits together puppetry, some great physical moments and seemingly dozens of characters with a lightness of touch that perfectly suits the story. She uses the space well, creating a believable world and allowing the actors to shine in all their roles. Robin Gulver, the movement and puppet director also deserves a mention here, as the results of his work are superb.

The framework for the action is the beautiful and adaptable set, designed by Simon Bejer. As soon as the audience walk into the theatre the atmosphere is established, with Japanese lanterns and a set that hints at a town, hills and a changeable yet stable landscape. Elliot Griggs’ lighting design is gorgeous and transforms the stage, creating a train, a rainy day and much more besides. The lighting interweaves with Max Peppenheim’s soundscape, making the world of the play vivid and alive. Add to this the simple and lovely video design by Andrzej Goulding and you have real magic.

The story was adapted from a novel by Eiko Kadono and is better known as a fantasy anime produced by Studio Ghibli. Kadono says that the story began when she saw a drawing by her daughter, showing a young witch on a broomstick, with a radio tied to it and music notes flying through the air. She looked at it and ‘all at once Kiki was born.’ I am very glad that her daughter drew the picture, because this play is a delight. Only the most deeply cynical could fail to be charmed by this joyful, innocent tale and there can’t have been any cynics in the clapping, whooping audience this evening! Go and see it. Take the kids. Take your granny. Go with your mates. Enjoy the enchantment one evening in Southwark.


Reviewed by Katre

Photography by Helen Murray




is at The Southwark Playhouse until 3rd September



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