Patience or Bunthorne’s Bride

 

 

Genre: Musical Theatre

Venue:  Union Theatre 204 Union Street, Southwark. SE1 0LX

 

Low Down

 

Sasha Regan’s vision for Patience at the Union Theatre deserves high praise for its use of imaginative design for stage, costumes and lighting, inventive choreography, and, above all, intelligent use of cross-dressing to highlight the punch in Gilbert and Sullivan’s satirical comic opera. From where I sat, the production’s talented ensemble consistently evoked expressions of delight from the audience as it followed the trials and tribulations of soldiers and poets battling for the affections of  ‘love-sick maidens’. Love-sickness and narcissism fuel a battle of the sexes, represented on stage through a pastoral, idyllic style which seethed with the sexiness of its young male cast who all thoroughly subvert the genteel conventions of romantic love, contradictorily with unbelievable delicacy.  

Review

 

 

As the musical stirrings of the opening chorus brings on ‘Twenty love-sick maidens we’, the idea of womanhood as an ‘affectation’ seems to glide on stage to immediately establish Reginald Bunthorne’s absurd good fortune of being adored by twenty young women, seething with desire for him. But ingeniously, in this opera ‘boy meets girl’ is not the main business. Instead, we are given a spectacular assortment of complicated relationships between those who are not who they seem (Reginald and Patience); others how don’t look anything like they ought to look (the Duke and Jane); still others who are just too perfect (Patience and Archibald).

In their own way G & S play in Patience in 1881 with a theme that Jane Austen tackled in 1811 in Sense and Sensibility when she characterised the rational and practical Elinor in opposition to the highly emotional Marianne. The idea of an ‘aesthete’ as represented in the figure of the poet is synonymous with not doing anything particularly practical but…well… write the occasional line of poetry. At the other end of the scale, men of action, like ‘the soldiers of the Queen’, are purposeful and made up of “all the remarkable people in history”.

In making her cast an all-male one, Sasha Regan is able to show the dilemma of mankind as a narcissistic problem – men reflecting only the experiences of men. Dispensing with women altogether, the audience see them pandering to their foolish reflections of what it means to be a real man: the action-man in army boots versus the sensitive-guy holding his book of poems. Both are ridiculous when taken to their extreme.  This is where Patience performs her essential role: in her naivety she realises she can only love an imperfect manin order that she can sacrifice herself to him as a dutiful wife. Irony upon irony, the woman’s role is captured in the production as the antithesis to achieving her own sense of pleasure: she literally exists only to please her man. To this end, Drew McOnie’s imaginative choreography brilliantly uses small hand-held props to both aid characterisation and embody the many ironies wittily: wool that gets tangled in the choral action and teapots and teacups moving around the space timed and synchronised

Meanwhile, the Union’s use of G & S music is faithfully scored and true to style. Musical Director, Richard Bates shapes the whole musical experience beautifully. The audience is never disappointed by the singers’ delivery of the comic opera’s recitative-style lyrics. Of the actors, the very least that can be said is that they all possess great voices and dance brilliantly. The leading performances by Dominic  Brewer as Reginald and Stoifan O’Doherty as Archibald and Edward Charles Bernstone as Patience are strong,  and supported by an equally strong ensemble. Edward Simpson’s Colonel Calverley deserves the articulation prize for his delivery of G & S lyrics such as “If you’re anxious for to shine in the high aesthetic line”.

All cast members show a discipline and control that allows the text and music to carry them through its brilliant satire, rather than imagine the cross-dressing, for instance, in cabaret style.

The explosion of applause when Patience finally gets her man is strong and sustained for many curtain calls. Rightly so!  It seems that in the hands of Sasha Regan, Gilbert and Sullivan might have written Patience not in 1881 but just for us in 2012, as we continue to discover the layers of contradiction in forming relationships in our more ‘gender bending’ times.

Reviewed by Josey De Rossi 23 February 2012

Website :

 http://www.uniontheatre.biz/

Rocinante! Rocinante!

Rocinante! Rocinante! 

 

Genre: Physical Theatre

Venue: CLF Art Cafe, Bussey Building, 133 Rye Lane London SE15 4ST (Peckham Rye)

 

Low Down

 

 

The pilgrimage through the light and dark crevices of the mind are beautifully evoked in Panta Rei Theatre’s Rocinante! Rocinante!  Taking its subject matter from the originality of Cervante’s Don Quixote, the setting for the production masterfully constructs madness as a kind of ecstatic and passionate state.  The technical accomplishments of director Chiara D’Anna’s creative team is vividly apparent: Steve Mason’s evocative music and sound design, Cis O’Boyle atmospheric lighting, Nadia Malik’s bold costumes all combine in a succession of ethereal and surreal experiences. If this is madness, it is amazingly and ironically human in its quest for meaning.

Within this all-too-humanly-flawed world exists the absolute and undeniable reality of death. Faced with this truth, the audience follows the action around the space, sometimes as part of a funeral procession and at other times as neighbours seated together listening to recent calamities. These two kinds of experiences are skilfully shaped by the cast of Juancho Gonzales, Daniel Rejano, Stephanie Lewis and Tommy Scott, who weave together the world of Don Quixote in parallel with Chiara D’Anna, Anna Zehentbauer and Almudena Segura’s sense of a more authoritative world of philosophers, writers and storytellers. Which one is more real? Or to put it another way, how on earth is ‘To be or not to be’ not a maddening existentialist question which remains impossible to answer… ever!

Review

 

 

As the theatre company’s name suggests Panta Rei – a Greek term meaning ‘everything flows’ – everything is constantly changing. It seemed obvious to me that the company is fascinated by the nuanced changes to the meaning of particular words and symbols. The clusters of props hanging in the performance space look like ripe fruit ready to be picked and enjoyed with gusto.

Another term which comes to mind throughout the production is, of course, the now established adjective of quixotic: as a description of “extravagantly chivalrous, romantic, visionary”. What I believe Rocinante! Rocinante! shows magnificently is that such ‘madness’ is a laudable antidote to ‘death’ and that not to be mad is to in a kind of living death. This is what Sancho realises, for instance, when he counteracts Don Quixote’s realisation that he is only a madman and, in the other world of the play, when Gary and Lolly perform Lolly’s mock burial.

The success of the show is in no small way due to the company’s ‘physical theatre’ style performances which seem to be informed by their knowledge of Commedia Dell’Arte techniques. The whole experience is choreographed and stylised in detail, with Tommy Scott’s portrayal of the donkey stealing the show as a kind of ‘real hero’ – selfless, loving and faithful. Stephanie Lewis’s transformations between Rocinante to Dulcinea are brilliant and it is this duality, so pivotal to the experience of the show, which resonates in you for hours after viewing it.

If I have any criticism, it is the usual one that can be made of all works in their early stage of development.  In places it tries to do too much, say too much and doesn’t quite trust the audience enough to ‘get it’.  I felt this particularly with regards to the use of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Sometimes it seems just too clever by half.

I hope the company gets to further develop this splendid work. The theatre company’s bilingualism is a tour de force in its own right and extremely entertaining.  Rocinante! Rocinante! deserves to be experienced by many audiences, in many locations. It radically reminds us that there is an alternative to embracing ‘madness’ as an illness, and that in human history we have been enriched and ennobled by the concept of madness as a productive state of mind.

Reviewed by Josey De Rossi 13 February 2012

Website :

http://pantareitheatre.com/

http://www.clfartcafe.org/SITE/HOME.html 

 

 

‘Physical Theatre’ + Promenade + Site Specific really!

 

 

Miss Hope Springs…Sings Her Songs

 

 

 

Genre: Cabaret and Burlseque

Venue:  Leicester Square Theatre 6 Leicester Place, London WC2H 7BX

 

Low Down

 

 

Every element of Ty Jeffries’ performance of Miss Hope Spring is done in style: that is, in the style of cabaret, female impersonation and solo performer in the spotlight. The realisation of a character from a bygone era of 1960s variety shows, who is forever on the brink of become ‘a star’, is absolutely engaging from start to finish.

The show begins with Miss Hope Springs having to manoeuvring the tiny stage space of the Leicester Square Theatre basement studio, which Ty Jeffries uses with gusto and finesse to show Miss Hope’s indomitable sense of optimism as she retells the vagaries of life pursuing a less than stellar career.  Her first revelation to the audience is that her husband, Irving, has left after thirty years for a gorgeous twenty-seven year old. The turning of the joke to reveal that the younger woman is, in fact, a man is sprung on the audience with a perfect sense of timing. It is wonderful moment, one of many which throughout the show brings the gender politics of traditional and gay marriages present yet never mentioned.

Review

 

 

Miss Hope Springs…Sings Her Songs is poised on building stories around well-known stars of the era like Shirley Maclaine linked with other names of lesser stars such as Tab Hunter. The constellation of brighter and smaller lights makes the stories strangely credible.  Its clear to see contemporaries of Miss Hope in the audience nodding at her allusions of flamboyant celebrity pool parties of the 1960s as well as their quiet thoughtfulness when she wonders where might such promising careers have gone.

Such a range of emotions makes for a show of considerable depth and interest in which the 12 songs are set to equally great effect. Through them, we come to know Miss Hope ‘the Star’ as she gives us as a seemingly private view of what she might have been. To do this, the lyrics of each song reveal lost love and innocence set against a gritty defiance of Miss Hope’s character.

Equally, the arrangement of Jeffries’ music through the composer’s blending of keyboard, drums and double bass is highly accomplished. The dynamics are continuously refreshing to listen to as Sam Glasson works magic through his drums and Nigel Thomas evokes the deep undertones of his bass.

It would be too easy perhaps to compare Miss Hope to other would-be stars such as Dame Edna Everage. However, Edna is far more in line with the sharp-tongued dame of the pantomime tradition. Miss Hope Springs is a ‘new woman’, altogether far more sympathetic to the character of the unrealised star whose talent remains unnoticed. Consequently, she is more heroic in her quest ‘to be herself’.

In the final moments of the show, when she reveals that she will not be returning to her errant husband but has decided instead to live on her own, she seems completely resolved. The moment hangs in the air with its many, many ironies: not the least perhaps because by the end of the show Miss Hope seems to represent the unfulfilled lives of her generation of ‘baby boomers’ who, once the wild children of the 1960s, now find themselves in middle age remembering their near-accomplishments and many adventures.

Reviewed by Josey De Rossi 2 February 2012

Website :

 http://www.leicestersquaretheatre.com/home

www.misshopesprings.com