Writers and composers : Gilbert and Sullivan
Director: Liam Steel
Reviewer: Marina Spark
Exeter Northcott Theatre is home to English Touring Opera’s first production of a Gilbert and Sullivan Opera this week and Exeter is in for a treat. The ever popular and timeless satire of light opera’s most famous duo shrines brightly in this production, which is one of the lesser known light operas by the duo.
This fanciful tale follows a young heroine, Patience, in her quest for true, unselfish, love. Pure “tongue in check” farce ensues as Patience encounters a long lost lover in her quest. Also featuring longing ladies and haphazard soldiers the plot is nothing short of hilarious.
Patience has everything that fans of classic Gilbert and Sullivan will love but also will entice newcomers with its exciting and fresh take on the humorous script. The orchestra are impeccable. The uplifting, haughty score gets many a foot tapping. The challenging lyrics are accompanied by a virtuoso performance by every musician in the pit.
Comedy is abundant in this production. The performers show excellent timing and clearly have a good sense of physical comedy. Director Liam Steel has interpreted the satirical jokes with a sensitivity that brings them right up to date.
At times Florence de Mare’s set felt a little cramped and the performers occasionally found themselves jostling each other during some of the choreographed moments. Added to that the set is somewhat unimaginative and the costumes are a little uninspired. Some of these issues may be unavoidable for a fast touring company, but they do slightly detract from the overall experience.
Bunthorne, played by Bradley Travis, is the narcissistic dandy who revels in adoration from the gaggle of longing ladies. Travis plays the role with aplomb. He clearly enjoys the cheeky, flamboyant role and indulges in it wholeheartedly.
Particular mention must go to Suzanne Fischer who played Saphir. Fischer perfectly captures the spirit of Gilbert and Sullivan. Her energy and presence are captivating and she creates a lively depiction of Saphir.
As ever, Gilbert and Sullivan deliver more than just a silly story. The underlying message, which rings as true today as when the opera was penned, is that all that glitters is not gold and a sense of duty can often be misplaced. The cutting satire is delivered in a light-hearted and accessible way with the audience howling with laughter at times.
This is an enjoyable production suitable for Gilbert and Sullivan fans and newcomers alike. Head down to Exeter Northcott Theatre before the English Touring Opera jauntily grapevine their way to the next venue.
Runs until 25 May 2017 | Image: Richard Hubert Smith