Thursday, April 29, 2010

Shakespeare's Globe

In the early days of the Globe, though production styles varied, the staging was almost always one that Burbage – the first ever Macbeth – would recognize were he to return.
Not any more. And for this Macbeth, the stage is extended out into the yard, and further by a black membrane through which the groundlings can poke their heads. The idea is to emphasise the idea of the underworld. Overhead, two huge concentric rings support black gauzes and chains; crowns, censers and braziers circling above the stage. More hollow crown than wooden O.
This is a dark and bloody production, directed by Lucy Bailey. Soldiers drip with gore, the ghost at the feast appears at the table like a showgirl from some grisly cake. And the porter [Frank Scantori] is the grossest imaginable, relishing every mucky moment.
The witches are powerfully grotesque, with unearthly sounds to underline their influence; they also provide the Apparitions; I liked the music, especially Fleance's gentle song in Act One. The boy has some of the best moments – playfully wearing the crown, escaping up the long ladder to the Heavens above the stage.
In amongst the bleak blackness, the gory pantomime, is a fairly traditional production, with Elliott Cowan a watchable Macbeth, and Laura Rogers slender, sexy but steely as his wife.
But it's the macabre and menace we take away from this infernal world, “smoked with bloody execution”.
Photo by Ellie Kurttz

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The 53rd Chelmsford Gang Show, at the Civic Theatre

It used to be all khaki. But this, the most colourful Gang Show yet, opened in a riot of orange and green, with a lively number ending in a very effective mass handjive.
There was red, white and blue for the Travel Sequence. And not one but two sets of street moves to a booming backing track.
I liked the way the weather improved from Raindrops [an impressively brave solo descending a staircase] to Sun Shine [from the newly revived Hair].
As ever, the Mini Gang showed promise, their moral tale of the Dark Siders [with their talented silver-clad leader] enlivened by some classic standards. I enjoyed the sophistication of Man in the Mirror, and the last production number – Love – was very nicely done. 
Sometimes I was surprised that the large chorus made so little noise – maybe this was a first night balance problem. 
There were some moments that even the enthusiastic uniformed audience found less exciting. The usual rules apply: if everyone stands in line, or takes turns with a verse, or is stuck against a front cloth, or is having to read the words …

Has the Gang Show lost touch with its roots ?  Well, there was little recognizable Ralph Reader this year, and almost no significant cross-dressing, unless you count the monster in a tutu.
And once you've embraced Return to Sender, Robbie Williams and Radio Gaga, there'll be no more In My Dreams I'm Going Back to Gilwell …

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Little Baddow Drama
21 April 2010

Mary Redman was at the Memorial Hall

It was good to have the opportunity to experience Alan Bennett's punningly titled play for the first time in a production which had a lot of good things and some that were a bit off - like the Curate's Egg.
So whether you were getting on in the ageing sense or getting on in the compatibility stakes Bennett's acute eyes and witty ears observing the foibles and intricacies of human behaviour meant there was something for everyone. "Shit has no pedigree!"
The sturdy set built by Brian Greatrex, Graham Keats and Barry Weight was a delight from the point of view of reality in an understatedly effective North London middle class kitchen of the 1970s. Barbara Newton had dressed it impeccably with bric a brac and piles of washing galore. Proof of her dedication to her task.
It was, however a set of two halves. I felt that there was no need for the two distracting door frames as they simply obscured the action but, most of all, was the regret that each of the wings sides of the kitchen was obscured wherever you sat. So one side of the audience missed the wonderfully dressed bookshelf, fireplace etc., while the other missed the equally haphazard kitchen. I realise you had to accommodate a rather large cast for such a small stage but it was a pity to waste such good workmanship (and womanship).
Lighting and Technical by Jonathan Patient and Matt Adams was good although (and this is almost certainly a directorial thingy) I felt that lighting fades at ends of scenes were often too slow and long. I did like the use of very carefully and specifically chosen incidental music by Eric Coates (I am told) with a little modern addition, which set moods and underlined action or emotions.
Stage Management was kept very busy conjuring up food and drinks and much, much more, in the safe hands of Barry Weight.
It was a great delight to see and hear Rita Ronn back on stage as mother-in-law and "Mommy Dearest" to Polly. With her wealth of acting and life experience and that beautiful voice she relished the mixed emotions and poignancy of her role as a shameless older woman. The kind that wears purple with pride and joy.
Equally welcome was Gill Peregrine's immaculate and marvellously observed cameo as the outraged, indignant Mrs Brodribb.
John Peregrine did the world weary MP George in that seen-it-all before, agitated, disillusioned, disaffected manner he does to a T. As his daffy wife Polly, and closely resembling a younger, darker-haired doppelganger  of Felicity Kendal, Vicky Tropman was the perfect foil for George's worries and harassment.
All hail to Trevor Edwards for his performance as MP Brian for resisting the temptation to stereotype his gay character. This was the sort of man who is perfectly secure in his identity. This portrayal also made a good contrast to the occasional camp of Andrew Wallis's bisexual handyman. Andrew created a portrait of this perplexed young man in just a couple of weeks, so all hail to him for this achievement.
Edward Sainsbury gave us a faithful characterisation of disaffected youth, helped no doubt by his own age, but I would have appreciated more vocal projection from him.
Director Michael Gray and his Assistant Director Ken Rolf created a faithful portrait of the 1970s life but I do have to tackle the elephant in the room - prompts. It would be unfair not to mention how often John Richardson was necessary, because insecurity on lines infects the rest of the cast and infests your own characterisation, whilst interrupting the audience's necessary suspension of disbelief.
It is a tribute to the strength of Bennett's play, the director's support and the combined power of the cast that we still enjoyed getting on with the play.

Jim Hutchon saw the play later in its run for the Chelmsford Weekly News:

Director Michael Gray’s epic production of this rambling, shambling play relied largely on the more than ample supply of Alan Bennett’s words to get the story across. It involves a self-opinionated Labour MP who listens to no-one and, like a ‘literary shredder’, reduces everything in his path to a torrent of words to the frustration of his family. In the course of the play, his wife and his best friend both have an affair with an itinerant visitor, his mother-in-law survives a medical crisis, and his son tells him like it is.
John Peregrine was the MP with verbal diarrhoea, though he buckled somewhat under the sheer weight of the words, and struggled to create the subtleties of his character. His wife – played by Vicki Tropman - managed to carve out for herself a genuine 3-dimensional character and her outburst following her affair was a dramatic high spot. The best friend – a homosexual MP – played by Trevor Edwards was very convincing, and created a rounded character comfortable within himself.
Andrew Wallis played the bi-sexual lover. Initially self-effacing, he went on to provide a genuine tear-jerker of an explanation for his plight. Nice to see Rita Ronn back, as the mother-in-law. Her interventions were invariably full of drama, and she never missed a laughter-line. The son was Edward Sainsbury – excellent as a fairly laid-back teenager content to frustrate his father. He too, had an impressive moment of confrontation.
The set was a lovely mix of the bizarre and shabby chic - the results of “the liberal art of collecting others' unwanted scrap.”
This was an absorbing and very long play which needed a great deal of concentration, but was well worth the effort.
reviewed for the Public Reviews
Mercury Theatre Company at the Mercury Theatre Colchester
My first Milk Wood was a purely aural experience, as Thomas intended. My most recent before this was a virtuosic one-man-show.
It's no surprise that more conventional stage adaptations, such as this winner from the Colchester Mercury Theatre Company, are so popular. Memorable, almost mythic characters, marvellous mouth-watering poetry, and a satisfying day-long dramatic structure.
Gari Jones's atmospheric production is set in the four-ale bar of the Sailors Arms, with excursions into the auditorium, park-benched and flagstoned for the occasion. Presided over from his eyrie by blind Captain Cat, the action imaginatively uses the pub furniture, the doors and the windows, to suggest the village beyond.
The set and the lighting combined to create real magic: I loved the slide through the bar-side servery, the organ keys in the table, the long-drowned outside the frosted “Wines and Spirits” glass, and Evans the Death rising from the grave. The geisha, out of the same trap, was a literal picture too far for me.
Of course it is hard to know how much of what we hear needs to be shown as well, a problem amusingly illustrated by the Revd Eli Jenkins, prompted on his entrance by a bossy narrator. To help the narrative flow and boost the dramatic energy, some lines had been re-allocated among the nine actors, who between them brought a whole hill-side of characters to vivid life. The inevitable quick changes were also exploited for effect, with Organ Morgan morphing into Lord Cutglass as his trousers are torn off.
The cast was a mix of familiar Mercury character actors – Roger Delves-Broughton, Christine Absalom, Ignatius Anthony, Gina Isaac – and younger blood – Pete Ashmore, Emily Woodward. The ensemble was excellent – schoolgirls, gossips, the village children: the kissing game was a memorable highlight. There was melodramatic ham from the Pughs, tender moments with Rosie Probert, and strikingly unexpected images, like the prancing postman or the old man in the babies' pram.
The music – presumably down to Sound Designer Marcus Christensen – was key to the mood: folk, musique concrete, and so on.
The show began in the stygian gloom of the bar, with recumbent shapes slumbering and dreaming, and ended with isolated figures, alone in pools of light, left for a poignant moment with their Milk Wood memories.

production photo by Robert Day

this piece first appeared on The Public Reviews

The Stondon Singers at St Thomas's Church Brentwood

After a day of unbroken sunshine and soundless skies, it was a particular joy to hear Monteverdi's great work in the Victorian splendour of the Church of St Thomas of Canterbury.
Christopher Tinker's interpretation was authentic, to the extent that anyone can know the composer's intentions. The spaces of the Nave, the Choir and the Transept were used to dramatic effect, for instance in the Audi Coelum, with its clever echoes. 
The work consists of a string of varied psalms and sacred songs. The Laetatus Sum, with its intricate solo lines, was given lively rhythms, the equally exuberant Lauda Ierusalem, busy but crisply enunciated, ended with a superb Gloria, and the more literal Duo Seraphim, beginning with two voices, incorporated a third in a striking evocation of the Trinity.
The soloists generally, including two choir members, were key to the success of this ambitious venture; the Stondon Singers, as ever, were meticulously prepared and impressively fluent.
The intensity built inexorably towards the end, with the concluding Magnificat leading triumphantly to one last glorious Amen.
The impressive instrumental forces of the period instrument ensemble – scurrying strings and racing brass – created  a bright exciting sound, helping to bring a flavour of Renaissance Venice to this corner of mid Essex.
CYGAMS at the Cramphorn Theatre Chelmsford 

“How does it grow, Grandad?”
The stuff of nightmares for some of the tinies in the matinée audience for Young Gen's terrific production of that grisly, twisted musical Little Shop of Horrors.

A great soundscape, a somewhat flat set, with the band at an upper window, took us down Skid Row, to watch a florist's fortunes revived by a strange and interesting plant, thirsty for human blood and world domination.

There's a boy meets girl plot in there too, struggling to get past the weirdness, as geeky, increasingly anaemic Seymour [ a superb characterization from Sam Pridige ] wins the heart
of leggy seedling Audrey, engagingly played in a girlish whisper by Annabel Bond. Her wistful yearning for Somewhere That's Green was a high point of a consistently stylish show.

Sam Toland put everything into the sadistic dentist, and Kevin Jarvis was a gravel-voiced Mushnik. Very watchable star cameos from a quick-changing Callum Crisell in Act Two, and an invisible Bart Lambert provided Audrey II [the man-eating flytrap] with a vivid vocal presence.

There were some lovely moments in Jeremy Tustin's production, - the newspapers, the faces at the window – and I especially admired the use of the urchins, and the talented backing group [Crystal, Ronette and company] whose fancy harmonies and cool dance moves were a constant delight.

production photo by Barrie White-Miller

Latchingdon Arts and Drama Society at the Tractor Shed

Footloose the Musical was sniffed at by the critics, but has had a successful afterlife touring the US and the UK, as well as becoming a popular high school musical.
Not hard to see why. It follows the lucrative furrow already ploughed by Grease, Fame, Saturday Night Fever, Smoky Joe's and Glee.
Peter Jones's lively production for LADS at the Tractor Shed, with energetic choreography by Vicky Bird, did its best with the paper-thin improbable storyline. Perhaps it's just as well there were no more plot twists, since not all the lyrics that drive the narrative were audible.
The one-horse town of Bomont has banned dancing following a fatal late-night teenage car crash. Cool Chicago sophisticate Ren McCormack [a stunning performance from Alex Martin] is the catalyst for a change of heart in the Reverend Shaw Moore – Robin Warnes having no difficulty convincing us as a stick-in-the-mud to whom all dance is anathema.
Elsewhere the accents were authentic only in the younger performers.
The songs ranged from the dire to the forgettable, though the young lovers [Martin with Marianne Davies excellent as the pastor's rebellious daughter] made the most of their duet – Almost Paradise – perched high on a bridge above the town. The most successful numbers were the harmony trios, Somebody's Eyes, Learning to be Silent, and the quartet Holding Out For A Hero.
But if, despite the best efforts of Kris Rawlinson and his band, much of the music was anodyne, there were compensations aplenty, mostly choreographic: the duet from Ren and good ol' country boy Willard [Dan Bavin], the opening number, answering the train, and the extended megamix dance sequence at the end, seemingly shrouded in the sulphurous smoke of eternal hell fire.
Great dancing, and palpable energy and enthusiasm, made for an impressive spectacular – one rural backwater bringing to pulsing life another.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Jim Hutchon was at the Civic Theatre
18th April 2010

M&G’s latest concert of the season at the Civic brought us the London Mozart Players, under conductor Owain Arwel Hughes, playing a pair of Beethoven numbers sandwiching Haydn’s Cello Concerto.
The opening overture, Egmont, brought out the LMP’s customary superb balance and lyric qualities in a spirited rendition of the1809 overture, conceived while Beethoven was hiding in a friend’s cellar bombarded by shells during the brief French occupation of Vienna, hence the war-like tone of much of the early movement. The allegro is marked by intense energy among the strings – echoed by a resounding brass. This energy is intensified in the closing con brio which brings the piece to a triumphant, victorious close.
The soloist in the Cello Concerto was Thomas Carroll, who took the piece by storm from the opening bars. Despite its complexity in the first movement, Carroll’s technical virtuosity was matched with real understanding of the music, especially in a dark, understated but technically brilliant short cadenza. The slow movement was a master class in the lyrical qualities of the cello, much of it in the instrument’s higher register. The third movement was a blaze of colour and sound from the soloist matched by a bravura performance by the whole orchestra.
The closing piece was Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony, originally dedicated to Napoleon but changed by the composer to ‘Eroica’ after a change of heart. The opening allegro con brio is a fiendishly complicated but musically satisfying and with great flourishes by the strings and especially the horns. But it also has an almost rural, pastoral section in it. The Marcia Funebre was suitably restrained with an underlying sense of drive and feeling, and is, in many ways, the defining movement of the whole Symphony. The Scherzo was a triumph of power and energy – again with a strident call to arms by the horns, three of which have solos of their own, and the allegro is a drive to express Beethoven’s heroic vision in mankind.
Over the years, these concerts have made Chelmsford an acclaimed centre of classical music, and the nearly full house for this one was testament to an audience which had come from far and wide for the privilege.

Friday, April 16, 2010


Birmingham Stage Company at the Civic Theatre Chelmsford 

Roald Dahl's subversive story first entranced young readers some thirty years ago. No need then for Health Warnings about the dangers of mixing lavatory cleaner and lipstick in a magical witch's brew.
I'm sure the excited pre-teens who packed the Civic are smart enough to tell fantasy from fact, even if the child in front of me took the chimneypots of Jacqueline Trousdale's wonderful set for Daleks …
And there was plenty of fantasy – dream sequences like Billy Liar's, or Billy The Boy Wizard in George's book – in a lively, noisy show, adapted by David Wood and directed this time out by Phil Clark.
Maybe the recipe was a bit long – and we heard it all over again in Act Two – but the animals were delightful: piglets, curious chickens, a cow, a bull. And the actors worked hard to keep the mad plot on the boil.
Clark Devlin was the boy George who touches with his fingertips the edge of a magic world. He related easily to his audience, and persuaded us to join in the incantation, rub our hands to warm the pot, blow on it to cool it down. Erika Poole was glorious as Grandma, the grumpy old bird with a taste for gin and slugs. And a special mention for Kirstin Allen and Eloise Wilkinson, two kids from Tomorrow's Talent, having their moment of fame as the mini-Grandma and the not-quite-giant chicken.

Brentwood Shakespeare Company at the Brentwood Theatre 

It's almost a commonplace now to set the Bard in the 30s, but Louise O'Connor's stylish staging for the Brentwood Shakespeare Company was very easy on the eye and the ear, and made for an enjoyable, if not quite magical, evening.
Some very accomplished actors did full justice to Shakespeare's verse, though sometimes, particularly in the first two acts, a lighter, more throwaway touch would have helped to keep the text on its toes.
If the Scout Troop Watch were only fitfully funny, the eavesdropping scene was most amusingly done. Grandmother's Footsteps in the prologue were neatly echoed by the moving penthouse in Act 3, and I liked Don John's shady trio, silent comedy criminals to a man.
Sydney Hill had gravitas and military bearing as Don Pedro, and Neil Gray was a convincing lovesick Claudio. Chrissie O'Connor's Ursula spoke the words with style and conviction, and Katie Burchett was affecting as the young, innocent Hero.
The two unlikely wooers - “horribly in love” - were Diane Johnston as the pleasant-spirited Beatrice, and Jim Crozier as the gruff, cynical officer Benedict. Especially in their later scenes there was real chemistry between them, and if “Kill Claudio” wasn't so much of a shock, it did arise logically from the altercation, and their final falling in love was well worth the waiting for.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Chelmsford Theatre Workshop at The Old Court

We hear the hairspray first – the background hiss to the 80s, era of shoulder pads and huge hair.

Robert Harling's heart-felt comedy is set in “women's territory”: Truvy's beauty shop in deepest Louisiana. There, the “ladies of the neighborhood” gather to share secrets and offer support.

The play is an entertaining cocktail of issues and one-liners. The six characters are well observed, and each was given a near-perfect performance by the CTW team.

Rebecca Errington's gauche trainee was a wonderful comedy creation, hyperventilating, doing good hair, getting religion and hilariously mangling the already ripe Southern vowels. Clairee – “too twisted for color tv” - was Sarah Bell, and Naomi Phillips held the stage magnificently as the proprietrix of the little salon.

Shelby, whose diabetes gives the piece its pathos, was touchingly done by Emma Moriaty; her possessive, protective mother was beautifully played by Sally Ransom, who took the audience with her as her emotions veered from despair, to determination to searing rage.

Christine Davidson had some of the best lines as Miss Ouiser, the mad old bat who's been in a bad mood for forty years, but reveals her caring side when tragedy strikes.

Jenny Almond and Catherine Kenton gave us a polished production, which brought out the best in this play, all set in a convincing salon, with a practical basin and a fourth wall covered in “reflective surfaces”.

photograph by Sally Jane Ransom: Christine Davidson [or is that Meryl Streep?]  Rebecca Errington, Naomi Phillips, Sarah Bell

Jim Hutchon's review for the Chelmsford Weekly News:

CTW’s production of the gossip-ridden beauty parlour has a highly-developed sense of time and place, and is a superb recreation of the comfort-zone women inhabit when together in confidence. Directed by Jenny Almond and Catherine Kenton, the parlour is presided over by an authoritative and kindly Naomi Phillips, playing the owner Truvy. The two richest inhabitants of the town, Clairee and Ouiser – played respectively by Sarah Bell and Christine Davidson – act up their confidences and insecurities with bravado and understanding and provide width and depth to an otherwise paper-thin narrative.
The narrative is pure 19th Century melodrama, where Emma Moriaty, in a sensitive and brave performance as Shelby, is a vulnerable Type 1 diabetic seen first preparing for her wedding, then unwisely becoming pregnant against medical advice and subsequently expiring from kidney failure.
The accents, on the whole, are believable Southern drawl, with the exception of the strangled tones of Rebecca Errington, the assistant hairdresser, whose accent is from no part of the US that I have visited, but who is such a natural comic that I laughed anyway. Principal acting plaudits must go to newcomer Sally Ransom, as the tragic mother of Shelby, whose quiet dignity developed through the play. Her burst of anger left the audience stunned, and will remain with me for a long time.
The men have a uniformly bleak press and never appear on stage. One is only intent on shooting things, another is on the run from the law and the new husband can’t cope with his wife’s illness in hospital and makes a run for it. Although possibly past its sell-by date as a feminist icon, this is a funny, sad and touching play which repays the attention the audience give it.
It is running for a second week from 14th– 17th April. Box Office is 01245 606505.


Lunchtime Concert at the United Reform Church Maldon

Little more than 30 years separate Beethoven's Waldstein from Chopin's Winter Winds.
But as Tim Carey ably demonstrated, they are worlds apart musically.
He began his recital with the Beethoven: an eloquent, almost affectionate account of this monumental Sonata.
Chopin's anniversary year provided the excuse, as if one were needed, to play three of his best-known works, representing three markedly different styles.
After the A minor Etude, we heard the C# minor Polonaise, and to end, the first Balade, considered by Schumann to be the Pole's most “spirited and daring” music.

I know Tim Carey's work well, of course, but this was my first time in Maldon's URC, with its civilized architecture and its Boston grand.
And its CCTV, showing us the keyboard in close-up, a great asset to our appreciation of this superb recital.

Tim reminded us that next month he'll be bringing his Chelmsford Sinfonietta mini-Festival to the Cathedral. Flute and piano on the opening night, May 6, then Grace Francis at the piano on the Friday, with the orchestra playing Wagner, Reinecke and Beethoven on the Saturday to round it off.

Pick up a flier, or phone 01245 474709.


2010 tour at the Civic Theatre Chelmsford 

Ballet Central, the touring arm of the Central School, is celebrating 25 years on the road.

The programme they brought to the Civic had a nostalgic tinge, I thought.

It began with the continually inventive Duologue, choreographed by Christopher Marney, who began his career in mid-Essex and is probably best known for his work with Matthew Bourne. The opening tableau had striking height, and the three couples, costumed in browns with subdued lighting, eloquently explored their sepia memories, ending with a chaste kiss.

Philip Aiden's Let Yourself Go – grey silks and spats, and more daring lifts – took Irving Berlin's tunes and showed inhibitions shed as bow-ties were loosened. Shift, by Christopher Bruce, began with some fairly literal mime, before exploring the mechanical work of the factory. A lithe, fluent performance, more Sing As We Go than Stalinist, the excellent trio of boys very American. 

Philip Feeney, who has been the Musical Director of the company since it began, wrote and performed the music for David Nixon's beautiful Song to St Andrew, and for the last piece, Knot Garden. Sara Matthews had devised a fascinating sequence of rhythmic, ritual movement, often ludic – the circle – but mostly celebrating the joy of dance itself, reflected in Feeney's folk-ish music.

Barry Moreland's brief Pas de Trois to Mozart, and Louise Bennett's busy, athletic Twin Figures, completed a stunning showcase of modern dance.  

Thursday, April 01, 2010

[reviewed for The Public Reviews]
Opera della Luna at the Mercury Theatre Colchester

Was there ever a saucier Sorcerer ?
Opera della Luna have taken Gilbert's first full-length comic opera and fast-forwarded it a hundred years to the 1970s, where its themes of free love and mind-altering substances feel very much at home.
We are at a garden fete, inside an impressive marquee. Before the lively overture is finished, we've had handbells and unrequited love, neatly symbolised by the vicar's panama hat.
The “pale young curate” in question was Philip Cox, by no means ancient enough, but hilarious, especially in his drug-fuelled infatutation with Alexis in Act Two.
Alexis [now there's a Seventies name] was played as a groovy swinger – flared jeans, purple velvet, droopy moustache – by Oliver White, who managed his tenor arias with some style, too, even when hand-jiving, disco dancing and cavorting with his intended, Emma Morwood's Aline.
No slouch in the fashion department, the Sorcerer himself, J W Wells, in the safe Savoyard hands of Simon Butteriss, half hippy, half tradesman, tottering about on platform shoes. A witty, sharp characterization; how nice that in this version he's allowed back from Hell [ in a red crushed velvet costume ] for one last encore.
Another Opera della Luna regular, Ian Belsey, was the funny old buffer Sir Marmaduke, with Syliva Clarke as his Lady. She had just the kind of rich, deep tone these roles demand. Her poignant recitative ending with her handbag snapped firmly shut.
The villagers [no chorus, of course] were represented by Susan Moore's down-to-earth Mrs Partlett, her love-lorn daughter [Rhona McKail] and a very amusing Martin Lamb, who also played the notary.
Among the naughty liberties taken with the 1877 original were the knee-trembling antics during Aline's Happy Young Heart, rhyming “wet-look jeans” with Milton Keynes, and most glorious of all, the Act One finale, when the philtre starts to take effect: psychedelic lighting and an ensemble based on The Lost Chord, Sullivan's parlour favourite, written in the same year as the Sorcerer.
As ever with Opera Della Luna, the music was treated with respect, but not reverence, and the inventive staging and polished comic performances made for a disgracefully enjoyable evening.
The Ploverleigh Village Band, on stage throughout, was conducted by Artistic Director Jeff Clarke, who was also responsible for this version, probably the first professional production for thirty years.

Today, April Fool's Day, they're in Hayes.
Two mysteries remain:
Why can this enterprising and gloriously entertaining company manage a two-night run at other venues, presumably doing good business, while the Mercury's one measly night is less than half full ?
And why did we have a 20-minute delay - planned and apologized for, it's true ?
At least it gave us a chance to savour some of the tunes from "that infernal nonsense Pinafore" ...

this piece first appeared on The Public Reviews