Thursday, July 14, 2011


Shenfield Operatic Society at the Brentwood Theatre

Lots of débuts in this very enjoyable trip to Titipu, not least Rick McGeouch's as director. His Mikado was a pleasingly traditional take on G&S, with superb set design, striking oriental costumes and inventively used fans. The strangely configured stage was brilliantly used; the Act One finale was especially well choreographed [Annette Harris]. But he did allow himself a few modern modifications: I liked the King's Speech spoof; I was less sure about the trashing of Tit Willow.
He did have a fantastic cast to work with. Stuart Brown's comic Koko, his roots in the rag trade still showing, gave a performance to treasure in the Lytton part. His Little List, entirely updated, even-handedly included both Waitrose and The Only Way Is Essex.
Simon Cook's light tenor was well suited to Nanki-Poo, and he proved a fine actor, too. His Yum Yum was Louise Stuckey, in her first leading role for Shenfield – she has a lovely soprano, and was entirely convincing as a graduate of a ladies' seminary. Her two giggling companions were Hannah Matthews-Jones as a perky Peep-Bo and Lauren Ramshaw as Pitti-Sing, very effective in the ensembles.
Nina Jarram [a G&S virgin] made a wonderful Katisha – touching at times, but mostly a terrifying predator.
Neil Sturgess was a well-characterized Lord High Everything Else, and Boot Banes a revelation as the Emperor – an imposing figure with a memorably mirthless laugh. [I'd no idea his armoury included the Savoy Canon.]
Adrian Ure was the MD [his first time with Shenfield, too], heading up an unusual reduction for woodwind and piano.


Anonymous said...

I saw this production on the Tuesday and feel that while an enjoyable production overall there was am awful lot of stabding about by the principals. Koko was a joy to watch, funny with great character and very animated. Unfortunately I think the director got so carried away with making this character work he forgot about the other characters. The choreography during the numbers was lovely and everyone looked like they were having fun. The singing was as good as ever from this society although a few of the mens chorus appeared to be struggling with the words at times. On the whole an enjoyable evening with lovely set and costumes I just grew a little tired of watching the principles come on and stand, sit or indeed kneel in motionless straight lines. Thankfully the effort put into the Koko part made for great viewing.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with the above comment. I went to see the show on Friday and whether the other principles had 'warmed' up by then or whether your previous comments are wholly unjustified, I found every character portrayal equally as strong. Surely it is hard to compare totally different characters when some parts are less prominent than others. Someone who is on stage for a large proportion of the action is bound to come across as a stronger performance to one who is not so and Ko-Ko being more animated is not only testament to the actor playing him but how the character is in relation to the others. I thought the actress who played Yum Yum was extremely good but the show did not require her to come across as 'funny and animated' so does this make her performance less effective? Unfortunately, I find your critique extremely biased and makes one think that you are either a relation of the aforementioned 'Ko-Ko' or a disgruntled member of the society who failed to secure a part in what was an excellent production.

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