Director - David Tatnall
Musical Director - Marcus Reeves
By Gilbert and Sullivan
Colonel Calverley - Peter Barber
Major Murgatroyd - Mike Pallet
Lieut. the Duke of Dunstable - Dan Hickson
Reginald Bunthorne (a fleshly poet) - Tony Blackshaw
Archibald Grosvenor (an idyllic poet) - Adrian Hickford
Mr Bunthorne's solicitor - Adam Case
Patience (a Dairy Maid) - Alison Bradley
The Lady Angela - Lucy Whiteman
The Lady Saphir - Anne Croudass
The Lady Ella - Claire Smith
The Lady Jane - Katie Hickson
Rapturous Maidens and Officers of Dragoon Guards -
Sue Aiken, David Anderson, Jan Baerselman, Jacqui Beckingham, Harry Butterwick, Tom Chenhall, Deborah Cleary, Sue Harper, Louise Hodson, Grace Honeysett, Bob Jones, Pamela Jones, Alan Matheson, Simon Meanwell-Ralph, Noeline Ormerod, Colin Paice, Heather Reid, Gill Russell, Michael Watson
The League of Friends - Royal Hampshire County Hospital
A GREAT-looking set and costumes ensured that go-to Gilbert and Sullivan Director David Tatnall would again deliver a topnotch show.
Alison Bradley was bright as Patience, a milkmaid who had attracted the attention of local poet Reginald Bunthorne (great confidence and personality from Tony Blackshaw).
Patience is also coveted by childhood playmate Archibald Grosvenor (the equally impressive Adrian Hickford) and the story revolves around their relationship with her. The local ladies are frustrated by the rivals’ obsession with the milkmaid and we are treated to some lively scenes as they swoon at the poets’ feet and vie for affection.
The ladies, particularly Katie Hickson (Jane), Anne Croudass (Saphir) and Lucy Whiteman (Angela) all performed strongly.
Any show that includes a pantomime cow shouldn’t surprise you when the more upbeat second-act features ping-pong balls, super-soakers and an impressive bubble-wrap-bath scene.
Top marks also for excellent sound, lighting and Marcus Reeves’ orchestra.
David Tatnall’s production was laugh-out-loud funny. There was a subversiveness about the humour that went really well with the piece and appeared in all sorts of unexpected places. It was a delight to see that on her first entrance as Lady Jane, during “Twenty lovesick maidens we”, Katie Hickson was counting the singers (and concluded that there were fourteen). Then there was the attention drawn to Gilbert’s strained rhymes in “If Saphir I choose to marry”. There were plenty of visual jokes too. In their quest to attain aesthetic perfection, several of the infatuated maidens spent the opening scene working on paintings; revealed at the end of the opening song, these turned out to be all studies of Bunthorne (including an artistic nude). When Patience, the milkmaid, entered, she was followed by a pantomime cow (which she milked during her first song).
The soldiers were a suitably unimaginative lot, led by Peter Barber as the Colonel, and with Dan Hickson exercising his delightful tenor as Lieutenant the Duke of Dunstable. When the Colonel, Duke and Major (Mike Palette) tried their hand at posing as members of the Aesthetic Movement for the song “It’s clear that medieval art”, the soldiers’ chorus came on in support in a variety of attempts at artistic attire, including one in a blue wig, carrying a handbag (causing an outbreak of hysteria in the audience). The orchestra got in on the gags too, with the brief segue into Rhapsody in Blue cut short by a disparaging aside from Bunthorne (Tony Blackshaw).
Amongst the songs, I tend to enjoy the small ensemble pieces most, so in this case “Long years ago, fourteen maybe” was beautifully sung by Alison Bradley as Patience and Lucy Whiteman as Lady Angela. This was followed by the arrival of Grosvenor (Adrian Hickford in an artful long blonde wig), for his duet with Patience “Prithee, pretty maiden” and shortly afterwards by the sextet in the act one finale (where Sullivan’s melody and harmonies are, as I suppose one should expect, very close to those of his hymns).
In the first solo of the second act, Lady Jane bemoans the fact that she’s not as slender as she once was. This was done whilst she reclined in a tin bath, beneath a lot of bubbles, and with the movements of her scrubbing brush accompanied by scrapings on the double bass. Shortly afterwards, at the end of another beautifully crafted series of visual jokes, it was revealed that the reason Katie Hickson was not as slender as she might have been was that she was wearing a fat suit.
Musical Director Marcus Reeves used a (commercially available) reduced orchestration. This was entirely appropriate for the production, and, because it tones down the strings in favour of woodwind, it makes the overture sound as if Sullivan is trying to be Rossini. The singing was excellent throughout, as was the acting. Amongst many details, I enjoyed that when Grosvenor changed to Cockney for “A Waterloo House young man”, Angela’s accent followed suit.
Tremendous fun from start to finish.