Dominic Kimberlin reviews The Gilbert and Sullivan Society’s production of “The Gondoliers” which went up in Younger Hall on the 1st and 2nd of March and in the Whitehall Theatre in Dundee on the 3rd of March.
Ever since watching The Simpsons episode where Sideshow Bob performs a condensed medley of the HMS Pinafore, I’ve wanted to watch a Gilbert & Sullivan production. Fortunately St Andrews, cornucopia of society, has provided for my cultural needs via the Gilbert & Sullivan Society, and on Thursday evening I attended ‘The Gondoliers’, directed by G&S addict Andrew Hoyland.
Younger Hall is a huge venue and as I prefer to sit as far away from the stage as possible for the purpose of note-taking anyway, I anticipated having to strain to understand the show. Fortunately important plot points were telegraphed through effective uses of props and choreography, so I could keep track of the narrative quite easily. Especially helpful was Mark Hamid’s Grand Inquisitor, whose clear and rich intonation allowed him to deliver exposition very well, and counterpoint the more playful characters. Both the set and costumes were excellent, allowing for moments of enthralling spectacle during the large chorus numbers. I also liked the gondola, which appeared from the side of the stage when an entrance was needed.
Owing to my mild case of musical dyslexia, any thoughts I had on the quality of singing stopped at ‘wow, that’s pretty awesome’, but, despite that limited analysis, the singing was awesome. Highlights included Caroline Taylor’s Casilda, which embodied everything I expected from a G&S performance, a powerful blend of characterisation and harmony. Her duet with Ronan Kearning’s Luiz was one of the many instances where the relationship between characters expressed in songs kept me completely engaged with the narrative.
Another brilliant pairing was Alex Levine’s Guiseppe and Laurie Slavin’s Marco, the eponymous gondoliers (helpfully colour-coded by costume). Their comic timing and excellent voices made for some of the most hilarious moments of the night, especially in conjunction with their wives Tessa (Emma Rogers) and Gianetta (Maddy Kearns). During the second act, just as the effects of a tutorial earlier that day and a surplus of caffeine were having their toll on my morale, Tessa and Giannetta rushed onto the stage with the chorus. Marco and Guiseppe were pacing and shaking their heads with dismay, soaring melodies filled the room, and I had a moment of pure childlike delight. The chorus is truly what makes this show such a wonderful experience because the entire cast seem so happy to be performing together; the joy was contagious.
I left in a happy glow of serotonin and awesome music, and even after the four-mile cycle back home supplemented by French death metal, I still can hum and clap along to the closing piece.