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Express G&S presented by Charles Court Opera

Express G&S was conceived during Lockdown, and is well-nigh perfect entertainment, especially for G and S aficionados, but also for anyone who relishes a feel-good, often hilarious, 75 minutes in the company of three highly talented singing actors. John Savournin and David Eaton, who must have an encyclopaedic knowledge of everything Gilbert and Sullivan, have raided all their works, except Thespis, plus Bernand and Sullivan’s ‘Cox and Box’ and have come up with a Poirot style, tongue-in-cheek, mystery to rival Agatha Christie, using not only Sullivan’s music, but, very cleverly, much of Gilbert’s dialogue and lyrics, interspersed with mock-Gilbert of their own. The result is a seamless pastiche and an operetta in all but name.

EXPRESS G&S. Catrine Kirkman, Philip Lee, Matthew Kellett. Photo Bill Knight.
EXPRESS G&S. Catrine Kirkman, Philip Lee (previous cast member), Matthew Kellett. Photo Bill Knight.

At the risk of spoiling what plot there is, the show takes place on board a sleeper train en route from Penzance (presumably!) to London where a dastardly crime is committed.

Whilst all three cast members are highly talented and work beautifully as a team, Catrine Kirkman is perhaps the most impressive, if only because her voice has a range which enables her to sing both contralto and soprano roles. Amongst the multitude of parts that she plays, both male and female, her sense of the absurd quickly communicates itself to the audience. She is also able to sing off the words so that they always make sense and seem to come from within her persona, for example, “Braid the Raven Hair” and Lady Jane’s song from Patience which, for a change, have real pathos as the lyrics are given equal value to the music.

Matthew Kellett, in the “Poirot” role is also highly successful, especially singing G and S in English with a French accent. Physically he is always watchable, particularly when moving smoothly around the stage on wheels! (Go to see him and you will understand what I mean!) His diction is particularly good, and the ‘patter’ songs are slowed down slightly so that, as with Catrine Kirkman, the words always make sense!

The train’s guard (these days “train manager”) plus many other passengers, all of whom seem to come from different G and S works, is the wonderful, totally watchable Matthew Siveter, who has just played several major roles in the very recent 29th International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival at Buxton. He has a very expressive face and great energy in his multitude of roles, especially perhaps as Edwin (Trial By Jury) or is he supposed to be Nanki Poo (The Mikado)? We shall never know! Siveter also possesses the most glorious bass-baritone voice, well produced throughout its compass and steady as a rock. He instinctively knows the style needed for G and S.

The piano is enthusiastically played by David Eaton, and David Savournin’s direction has terrific energy, as befits his script/libretto. Jessie Huckin is responsible for the simple but inventive design, and Rachel E Cleary the lighting.

All in all a wonderful, uplifting, life-affirming production, set off by the ambience of Wilton’s Music Hall , a venue that just HAS to be seen!

Whether or not you know your G and S, you will find this a hugely enjoyable evening’s entertainment – and just the right length: it leaves you wanting more! Highly recommended – bus 343 from London Bridge to Tower Gateway (use your bus pass!), then seven minutes walk! GO!

5 Star Rating

Review by John Groves

After last summer’s five-star success with Patience the award winning ‘masters of Gilbert & Sullivan in small spaces’ return to Wilton’s with their side-splitting murder mystery spoof, which features every single G&S opera in 75 minutes of madcap tomfoolery.

Get ready to be swept away on a Topsy-turvy journey from Cornwall to Chancery Lane, from Titipu to the Tower of London, from Portsmouth to Fairyland, as a dubious detective, intriguing travellers – and a pianist – uncover clues upon red herrings in this inventive, witty – and downright extraordinary – murder mystery.

LONDON SEASON
15 – 18 August
Wilton’s Music Hall
1 Graces Alley, London E1 8JB
https://www.wiltons.org.uk/

Related News & Reviews Past & Present

  1. Charles Court Opera’s Express G&S | Review
  2. Patience – Charles Court Opera – Review
  3. Charles Court Opera presents The Mikado By Gilbert & Sullivan
  4. Final cast announced for Charles Court Opera’s THE MIKADO
  5. Charles Court Opera: Snow White in the Seven Months of Lockdown

Author

  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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