Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Grosvenor Light Opera Group: Patience

Type-cast much? As much as Dauntless doing Ruddigore, I think. For their first show at the Festival, this has been an excellent one; and I am definitely going to have to elaborate on what I mean by "Most Definitive Production", as this Patience is another strong contender.

There seem to be two types of show: Those that use follow spots, and those that could have benefited from them. This was one of the latter; there were several points where I'd have liked to see a singer highlighted, for instance. But such as it was, it was; there were no dark patches where people would sing unseen, and the bust of Bunthorne was always clearly visible. (Good likeness, too, and a nice touch.) Last night's Pinafore was frenetic; tonight's Patience is languid, as befits the maidens (though I could have hoped for a little more energy from the dragoons - they were precise when they moved, but didn't move all that much).

The title role of Patience (Rachel Wood) was played sensitively, with a lovely sweet voice. She's one of the ones who wanted a spot, though, for Love is a Plaintiff - err, I mean, a Plaintive Song; a whole wide open stage, lit as though for a full company, is a lot for one soloist to use. But so be it; one can't have everything. Joined by her beloved, and the namesake of the company, Grosvenor (Huw Montague Rendall), the pair gave an interesting reading of the "Farewell, Archibald" sequence: he was exiting, not approaching her, when she bids him to "Stop there". Not what I usually see; works quite well. His rival, Bunthorne (David Court), happily sits under his own statue in the exact way that Jayne Cobb didn't want to. He's a funny fellow, is Bunthorne. I can just imagine him confiding in Patience: "I am a salaried poet, and is there aught in nature more ridiculous? Why, when there's naught else to po at, I po at myself till I ache for it." His scene with Patience in the first act was so clearly delivered that every one of Gilbert's jokes got a laugh, and applause followed his exit. His work with the Lady Jane (Joanna Pullicino) was of a similarly high standard, but her performance was highlighted more by her act two solo... playing a cello in a hacked-up and comically wrong version of the accompaniment to her recitative (with the orchestra silent), sliding smoothly into a more conventional system of "on stage: sing, in pit: play" (which had been violated the other direction a moment earlier, by the chorus singing their opening number from the pit!) in time for the main song. And what an accomplishment THAT is is a duchess, for so she'll be once the Duke (Rob Richmond) marries her. But I guess we're not supposed to worry about how badly marriages will turn out - that's the job of the sequel. Hmm. "Patience II: The Return of Reginald", in which all the maidens divorce their new husbands, Bunthorne secretly murders Grosvenor and tries to hook up with his widow, and WS Gilbert turns in his grave. I think I'm onto something here. To be honest, though, I think what I'm onto is a lengthy digression, so I'll get right offto it again. The Duke and his companions, the Colonel (Michael Pandazis) and Major (Stuart Gill), made very little change to become aesthetic - rolled up their trousers, bared their feet (except the Major, for some reason), removed their jackets, and added some little things like hats and flowers. That was all, yet to the Ladies Angela (Penny Mullord) and Saphir (Melissa Clarke) it was sufficient. The quintet could perhaps have benefited from a little more movement at times, but was sung well and definitely stood up for itself.

A few notes, dear reader, for deserving villagers. Starting with the one referred to at times as the "Off Note", or more technically the "Soft Note", that of the echoing voice; beautiful. The first G&S I sang on stage in (prior to that I'd crewed a Gondoliers) was Patience, and quite a bit of rehearsal time was spent on the Soft Note. Maybe it's just because I know the bass part so well, but I'm sure I could pick it out tonight. The acoustics of the Buxton Opera House are extremely kind to the gallery, and I could hear clearly every single note of that lovely sequence. Also in the finale, but unrelated: the girls' first entrance reminded me of Schlemiel the Painter, coming in singly and each one going a little further to find her place in the line. That'll be funny to one, maybe two, of my readers, but oh well. Can't please everyone.

Great show, followed by hilarious cabaret. Thank you, Grosvenor LOG, and I hope to see you again some Festival in the future!

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