“The lovers glide through their united vocal performances”
Director Thomas Ware and Assistant Director Lucy Evans set out with a vision to create a modernised version of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera The Gondoliers and by the King of Barataria do they succeed! The costumes ooze Fifties glamour and glam their way through prestigious St Mark’s, ‘Oxbridge’; for St Mark is the patron saint of the original setting, Venice. Geddit? We have a show worth seeing.
His debut on the maestro’s podium saw Musical Director Steven Segaud coaxing a sound from the cast that can only be described as stunning. Conducting a 30-piece band and a cast of 33 takes great skill and his hard work paid off. The eleven-strong male chorus is perfectly matched by their female counterparts. The combined choral sound is magical and the principals more than hold their own when on their own.
Gilbert and Sullivan are notorious for weaving multiple devilishly intricate, wordy melodies that can trip up even the well-seasoned EUSOG trouper, but this cast were as quick lipped as they were quick witted. The overall sound and lasting impact more than made up for any bum notes from the band pit or stage.
Set Designer Isobel Williams and her team deserve mention for the unembellished stage design. It was most effective – using silhouettes is a clever way of determining location without having to build separate sets for the two cities and the bridge-turned-platform was also a great asset to the stage dressing; adding both height and opportunity for fun entertainment, should the need arise. What’s more, the gondoliers could then pass through ‘behind’; noticeable but unobtrusive – the audience catching no more than a glimpse of a hat, a head and an oar: a most effective direction.
The added references of pop culture to the script did add to the hilarity of many a situation – most notably the larger-than-life Duke of Plaza Toro and his wife, the Duchess; portrayed by Dominic Lewis and Lucy Gibbons. The evident cracks in their marriage and need for lavish pomp and ceremony resulted in expectant chuckles from the audience as soon as they appeared on stage – such a reaction cannot be misconstrued. The pair’s comic timing and natural awareness and reaction to the other’s antics made for a great laugh.
Harry MacGregor and Sean Marinelli took to the roles of gondoliers Marco and Giuseppe, respectively, with an ease and camaraderie that was a joy to watch on stage. While the brothers’ vocals may not always have reflected their unity, their acting certainly did, especially when acting through technical glitches and finding love. The pair’s love interests, Eleanor Crowe and Lydia Carrington, made easy the chance to revel in G&S splendour – as Gianetta and Tessa; these sopranos worked their instruments well to produce a beautiful sound, and as a quartet, the lovers glide through their united vocal performances.
The most convincing love entanglement springs between Casilda, daughter of the Duchess – and newly made Queen of Barataria – and Luiz, a serving man. This tricky, class conflicted, love was fantastically conveyed by Ethan Baird and Ellie Millar; the pair’s pathetic battle against their feelings was poignantly funny – this poignancy only made more bitter sweet by the mellow melding of the pair’s vocals. Millar rose effortlessly through the high notes and was complemented perfectly by Baird’s rich tenor. And as with all Gilbert and Sullivan fairy tale-esque romances, the queen gets her king, strife is resolved within Barataria and Baird shows he suits both bowler hat and king’s garb.
All in all, farce and fancy that epitomizes what it means to be a Savoy Opera where life’s a pudding full of plums. Tra, la, la, ha, ha, ha, et cetera.
Reviewer: Amy King (Seen 16 March)
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