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Patience – Charles Court Opera – Review

Charles Court Opera has been described as one of the leading and most versatile chamber music theatre companies in the UK and the “masters of G and S in small spaces”, according to their programme. The artistic director is John Savournin, also responsible for the revival of this 2014 production and playing Bunthorne in the performance under review, amusingly menacing like a Goth Fagin! Originally a skit on the “aestheticism” of Oscar Wilde, Whistler and others, Patience can seem outdated today, but not in this production. Savournin has updated the original, setting it in a public house, The Castle, with Patience (Catriona Hewitson) as a barmaid rather than a dairymaid! On the whole, this works very well, especially as Hewitson is superb in the role, not just singing the music but making the most of Gilbert’s lyrics which are crystal clear.

Patience - Charles Court OperaThe remainder of the cast uses the split-level stage at Wilton’s Music Hall well. Meriel Cunningham (Lady Angela) and Jennie Jacobs (Lady Saphir) are enabled, because there is no chorus as such, to make much more of their roles than is usually possible. Cunningham, especially, is lustfully sexy, and enjoys it! The ageing spinster Lady Jane (Catrine Kirkman) revels in this part, knocking back copious quantities of alcohol from the bar and wearing a wonderful wig ( at least I think it was) clearly showing the grey hair growing out from the roots.

Colonel Calverly (Matthew Palmer), Major Murgatroyd (Dominic Bowe) and The Duke of Dunstable (David Menezes) are amusingly portrayed as ‘posh’ stereotypes each possessing attractive voices and singing off the words with superb diction.

Matthew Siveter revels in the role of Archibald Grosvenor. As well as a powerful, attractive, voice, he is a consummate actor who instinctively knows the style that G and S needs, even if he did not quite ‘ stop the show’ as he did recently at Harrogate!

In fact, what really strikes one is that, unlike ENO’s recent production of HMS Pinafore, Charles Court really appreciates how to make Gilbert and Sullivan work. The dialogue is beautifully spoken and often very funny, and the whole production has energy and that elusive quality: style!

Design is by Simon Bejer: perhaps the Goth costumes and make-up could have been more extreme? and very effective lighting is by Rachel E Cleary. However, the highest praise of the evening must go to David Eaton, the musical director, who made the rather weak-toned grand piano sound as much like a full orchestra as possible!

Very highly recommended, and only at Wilton’s this week, before continuing to tour the UK.

5 Star Rating

Review by John Groves

“The masters of G&S in small spaces” bring their “ingenious” production of one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s funniest operettas to Wilton’s, for three nights only.

Charles Court Opera are well known for presenting witty, exquisite G&S productions, and Patience is no exception. Directed by John Savournin, musically directed by David Eaton (the team behind the smash hit HMS Pinafore at Opera Holland Park) and designed by Simon Bejer (winner of Best Opera at the Offies), audiences can expect first class performances from a terrific young cast, led by Catriona Hewitson in the title role (recently starring in Scottish Opera’s The Gondoliers), and a host of beloved CCO regulars, including Matthew Kellett and Catrine Kirkman.

Cast: Catriona Hewitson (Patience), Matthew Kellett (Bunthorne), Matthew Siveter (Grosvenor), Catrine Kirkman (Lady Jane), Matthew Palmer (Colonel Calverley), Meriel Cunningham (Lady Angela), Jennie Jacobs (Lady Saphir), David Menezes (The Duke), Dominic Bowe (The Major).

Director – John Savournin
Musical Director – David Eaton
Libretto – W.S. Gilbert
Composer – Arthur Sullivan
Choreographer – Merry Holden
Original choreography – Damian Czarnecki
Design – Simon Bejer

24th – 26th August 2022

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  • 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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