libretto by W S Gilbert revised by Phil Wilmott music by Arthur Sullivan.
Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Arms 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 18 April 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat, Sun 3pm.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652.
www.finbooroughtheatre.co.uk (no booking fee by ’phone or online).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 15 March.
Fine music in satire that’s had its shelf-life.
As the Finborough’s publicity points out, London operetta-goers have been unable to see this mid-partnership Gilbert and Sullivan piece produced professionally for more than twenty years. Keen followers of the pair’s Savoy operas may flock to the Finborough and come away thinking they still have not.
It isn’t a matter of the music, for though Sullivan’s overture sounds thin on two pianos, the joint Musical Directors accompany the singing well. Director Phil Wilmott also relates the pair to the operetta’s story. The confident men who first enter, pompously taking a bow before playing a note, return hastily after the interval, summoned by Lady Beatrice, ringing what is also the Luncheon bell – though more in command than invitation.
It’s a joke Wilmott’s adaptation allows through cutting characters and incidents to reshape the three-act structure into the standard Gilbert and Sullivan two-act format. He also adapts the piece into a more varied consideration of sexual liberation. Once the young women decide to abandon their all-female university, Castle Adamant, and the young princes have ensured Hilarion can fulfil the marriage made as a baby to Ida, the pairings are same sex as well as between sexes. And it’s fitting Gama, unaware of this, should hissingly describe women opposing him as lesbians.
But Wilmott unwittingly goes further than Gilbert in attacking women’s education and independence by making Ida’s university life a contrivance of Gama’s to keep her from men until he marries her himself. It gives a sinister edge, introducing the idea he’s grooming the young woman. The faults his introductory song admits, which make people think him disagreeable, sound minor admissions.
Simon Butteriss is, nevertheless, admirable in his playing, from the first sour-faced moment to his detailed acting and articulation of the fast music. The choreography by Thomas Michael Voss captures a sense of Gilbert and Sullivan performance tradition, while expressing the combat of male and female by various means, including hockey-sticks handled with potentially lethal dexterity.
This is another Finborough musical revival exploring local associations (Gilbert lived nearby), to display how many fine young singers there are on the London theatre scene.
Prince Hilarion: Zac Wanke.
Prince Cyril: Simeon Oakes.
Prince Florian.: Jeremy Lloyd.
Prince Alfred: Raymond Wals.
Prince Igor: Nathan Elcox.
Prince Scynthius: Jordan Veloso.
Princess Ida: Bridget Costello.
Lord Gama: Simon Butteriss.
Lady Melissa: Laura Coutts.
Lady Ada: Georgi Mottram.
Lady Beatrice: Wendy Carr.
Lady Katherine: Rachel Lea-Gray.
Lady Meg: Victoria Quigley.
Director: Phil Wilmott.
Designer: Maira Vazeou.
Lighting: Jack Weir.
Sound: Ed Shaw.
Musical Directors: Richard Baker, Nick Barstow.
Choreographer: Thomas Michael Voss.
Costume: Clara Lopez Merino.
Resident director: Natalie York.