"why don't you go fuck a play" Boy George, by Twitter 18.7.2012

Sunday 19 February 2012

G&S in a Higher Bracket

The problem with coming up with a cracking idea on the theatre fringe is you’re obliged to repeat it – building, for example, on the brilliance of the original all-male Pirates of Penzance, Sasha Regan producer-director at the Union polished the Mikado and glorious Iolanthe to undeniably fresh brilliance.

It’s fortunate there are a dozen such comic operas in the repertoire because with the successful staging of Patience, she’ll need several more to meet demand: my money’s on Pinafore.

This Patience looks and sounds delightful. It’s set and lit with the Union’s usual home-made charm, and again Drew McOnie demonstrates his extraordinarily intuitive and modern choreographic range in designing movement which matches the humour and dexterous diction of G&S without bursting into production numbers.

The story satirises the aestheticism movement of the late 19th century and suggests young ladies are most attracted to willowy men who spout poetry rather than rough-shouldered soldiery. Both are exceptionally well-rendered in the cast – among the ‘ladies’ who are amazingly able to sing to the top of their soprano range in full voice rather than strained falsetto, Edward Charles Bernstone is a tuneful and pert Patience but it’s James Lacey with the affecting kiss-curl who stands out as the most effective head girl of the “twenty love-sick maidens”.

Demonstrating the richness of vocal talent in London, only a couple of the singers are veterans of previous Union productions, and the brilliant new finds sourced by casting director Adam Lewis Ford include Lacey and Bernstone and an outstanding lyric baritone in Stiofán O’Doherty as Grosvenor, the boy who by switching from aesthete to ordinary, and by eschewing a pair of spray-on white jodhpurs even Mr Darcy might have reconsidered - eventually turns Patience’s head.

Every element is beautifully realised, the ensemble is excellent, and the singing impeccable. If there’s a flaw, it’s that Patience simply isn’t G&S’s strongest piece, and apart from one once wrestled into submission by Dame Hilda Bracket, there’s hardly a familiar tune.

this review written for www.remotegoat.co.uk

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