Left – Anne Doherty, Liana Nagy and David Rapkin. Photo – TAMedia.com.au
The Gondoliers without a hint of Venice? This certainly is an inventive and different interpretation of one of the best known and loved operettas from the extraordinary combination of WS Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. Director, Choreographer and Production Designer David Lampard's very creative conception for this year's production is a courageous attempt at keeping a popular old war horse fresh, which may well appeal to the G&S cognoscenti, but whether it works as a piece of theatre for those who are less familiar with the extent of G&S wit and tunefulness remains for audience response to tell. It will need a little more settling and gestation than shown on opening night to get there.
Set in an Art Gallery, characters emerge from gold picture frames (as in "Ruddigore"). The "Gondoliers" plot and music are all there, but the whole is peppered with escapees from every other G&S operetta. This sometimes makes for witty interpolation, and at other times, simple confusion.
There are some excellent voices and fine actors in this company, notably Hew Wagner's clear, natural tenor as Marco, well partnered by Patrick Witcombe as Guiseppe, and the nicely matched voices of Nicholas Coxhill (Luiz) with Liana Nagy (Casilda). Peter Hopkins as Don Alhambra, in the best of a fine array of costumes was suitably commanding and pompous, and Anne Doherty swept through the role of the Duchess of Plaza Toro with dignity of acting and clarity of voice. It was somewhat disappointing that more could not be made of some of the wonderful humourous opportunities that the role of the Duke of Plaza Toro (David Rapkin) offers as her foil.
There were too many occasions in which the orchestra under Musical Director Ian Andrew overpowered the singers, and some songs were too fast for the Gilbertian wit to be conveyed and appreciated, so that some of the very clever humour, which remains pertinent to this day and therefore deserves to be heard, was lost. The rhythmical discrepancies between orchestra and singers will improve with some tightening of direction.
Nevertheless, there are many aspects of this production which make it very worthwhile and enjoyable. The choreography throughout, by David Lampard, is splendidly conceived and well executed by this large cast. The amazing and clever exposition of the Cachucha – "that wildest of dances" – has interpolated through it a wonderful collection of G&S intruders. Twenty lovesick maidens ("Patience") and lost bridesmaids ("Ruddigore") wandered though, Pirates (of Penzance) swashed their buckles around, fairies ("Iolanthe") sighed and flitted about, sailors ashore from "HMS Pinafore" leaped about, Kings ("Princess Ida") dozed in picture frames, three little maids and various other Japanese ladies ("Mikado) and various "Yeomen of the Guard" also got mixed up in it, along with the odd Judge ("Trial by Jury), and no doubt, some others!
There was also some very nice business in the "Regular Royal Queen" song which earned its well deserved and well rehearsed encore. All this contributes to what Lampard himself says is "the sheer audacious fun" and "the flat out silliness of this production"
For G&S as you have never seen it before, this production is worth a look.
Gilbert and Sullivan Society of SA Inc. presents
W.S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan
Directed by David Lampard
Venue: The Arts Theatre, Angas Street, Adelaide
Dates: August 10 – 18, 2012
Tickets: $50.00 – $20.00