Pros: It is hilarious! The comic timing of the cast is impeccable and there are several moments of comic genius.
Cons: The theatre was uncomfortably hot – that may not be an issue when the weather changes.
What a jolly, rollicking performance this is!
I have never been to the opera, I know nothing about it, and I haven’t seen a complete performance of a Gilbert and Sullivan work before. In fact I didn’t know that Gilbert and Sullivan was opera – so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this performance in a pub theatre, and I wasn’t prepared to enjoy it as much as I thoroughly did! When I thought of opera, visions of large ladies bellowing lamentable dirges for dying lovers in foreign languages sprang to mind. But all this has completely changed after this wonderful production by the Charles Court Opera.
The story is, not surprisingly, about a group of pirates and the events that occur upon the coming of age of one of their interns. They are a soppy bunch of orphans, not the marauding plunderers of fairytales that we are used to. They come across a trio of pretty maidens, seeming coy, which leads to the capture of their father, the ‘modern Major-General’. But there is so much more to this story that can’t be summarised in a short review. It is brilliantly comical writing, lots of allusions to duty and honour, social standing and civility and it is clearly a satirical view of the world of noblemen, peers and family birthrights. It is not hard to see why Gilbert and Sullivan’s work, written over 130 years ago, maintains such a presence today – it’s very clever and surprisingly relevant.
Enough about Gilbert and Sullivan (we have the internet for discourse on that topic!). It’s hard to know where to begin talking about the production itself as it is just really, really good! Charles Court Opera was formed by John Savournin, who not only plays the role of the Pirate King, but he also directs and choreographs the performance as well. Savournin is clearly a very talented guy: as the Pirate King he is brilliantly funny, the comic timing of the entire cast is absolutely impeccable, and the direction and choreography are seamlessly delivered and very entertaining. There is one number with the entire cast involving children’s building blocks which borders on comic genius. I laughed all the way through the evening and I wasn’t the only one. This performance gets big laughs. There is never a lull, never a long moment; it is well-paced and buoyant, wonderfully executed and lots of fun.
The cast as actors are all very funny and play their comic roles to perfection. Comedy doesn’t come easily on stage; there is a real skill to making people laugh continuously, and this cast nails it from start to finish. Matthew Kellett is an indefectible side kick to the gypsy king as Samuel, and he provides many of the comic highlights throughout. Amy J Payne’s panto-like performance as Ruth is hilarious. Kevin Kyle does a very good ‘straight man’ as the honourable Frederick. Alexandra Hutton, Charlotte Baptie and Nichola Jolley play the three maidens with finesse, everything from their interactions right down to their facial expressions is flawlessly complimentary. Ian Jervis as General Stanley and Simon Masterton-Smith as the Sergeant are also excellent. They all work wonderfully together, with unwaning energy in what was an extremely hot theatre space.
I haven’t mentioned the singing as I know nothing about how to judge a good operatic performance from a bad one. I will say that at times the vocals clash a bit as different words are sung over the top of one another, but I think this may be intentional. As a whole, the operatic performance is certainly good enough for me, thoroughly enjoyable and very easy to listen to with lots of dynamic delivery and interest. The accompanying ‘piano four hands’ arranged and performed by the Eton-Young Piano Duo is fabulous, another highlight of the evening. This is a really enjoyable production and I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a good old-fashioned laugh. I’ll be keeping an eye out for more Gilbert and Sullivan from Charles Court Opera.
Composers: Gilbert and Sullivan
Producer: Charles Court Opera
Director and Choreographer: John Savournin
Musical Director: David Eaton
Box Office: 0207 478 0160
Booking Link: https://kingsheadtheatre.ticketsolve.com/shows/126523019/events
Booking Until: 29th September 2012