|Johnny Herford, Kaite Coventry, John Tomlinson, Andrew Shore,|
Gareth Jones, Soraya Mafi, David Webb, Sarah Tipple,
Ashley Riches, Lucy Schaufer and Angharad Lyddon
Mike Leigh is a passionate Gilbertian, as is evident from his film Topsy-Turvy, and the production (in a revival directed by Sara Tipple) strikes a delightful balance. The accompanying essay by him in the programme notes is really interesting. He makes the case for Gilbert as a very considerable dramatist (he wrote over 75 plays and libretti), a [pioneer of theatre-directing, a "great poet" and that "had he never written a word, his work as an illustrator would have stood the test of time."
The first excellent singer was Ashley Riches who had the role of the Pirate King. He is a highly intelligent young singer with a commanding stage presence and a terrific voice, and of course he has the advantage of having the first really great song "O better far to live and die" with the knock-out refrain: "For I am a Pirate King! (you are, hurrah for the Pirate King) And it is, it is, a glorious thing to be a Pirate King!" He also acted with great panache. The other one was the great John Tomlinson who was the Sergeant of Police, endowed with another massive hit: "When a felon's not engaged in his employment" and a refrain no less enduring "when constabulary duty's to be done, to be done, a policeman's lot is not a happy one", though the music for this, although immensely memorable, is nothing like as good as O better far.
Andrew Shore was a super Major-General, delivering his famous "I am the very model of a modern major-general" with clarity and humour, though not doing the "search for the rhymes" business (lot of news .... hypotenuse // din afore ...Pinafore // strategy .... sat a gee). Mabel was also a fine performance from Soraya Mafi and the whole evening was a triumph. Interestingly the first Mabel, Blanche Roosevelt, did indeed marry an aristocrat albeit not English, the Marquis d'Alligri (though nothing else much seems to be known about this person) and then became the mistress of Guy de Maupassant.
Do catch the show if you can - it's on till the 25th March. And look out for Ashley - his next big role is ... Don Giovanni in Holland Park this summer.
PS Given that the plot hinges on the fact that:
"some person in authority, I don't know who, very likely the Astronomer Royal
has decided that, in such a beastly month as February as rule are plenty
One year in every four, it's days shall be reckoned as nine and twenty"...
it's amusing that we saw it in Feb and the night before had dinner with ... the Astronomer Royal.