Emily Elderfield reviews ‘Patience’, a Gilbert and Sullivan Show directed by Hannah Jeffery and produced by Esther Dickson and Hannah Swain-Ward, which went up in the Byre Theatre 17th-18th of April.
Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience is a jolly and melodramatic account of two ‘aesthetic’ poets, hordes of lovesick admirers and one girl (the eponymous Patience) who is confused about love. Whilst the singing was impressive and the cast utilized humour at every opportunity, the production was static in parts, given the repetitive blocking and a lack of movement.
One of the central aspects of any G&S show is the music, which the cast predominantly excelled in. The voice of Patience (Maddy Kearns), particularly stood out, both for her musicality and ability to combine subtleties of expression alongside a demanding vocal line. The supporting cast were undeniably talented, though some were let down by their lacking projection. Similarly, the band came across as hesitant in parts, particularly during the opening overture; this uncertainty meant the production lacked the punch needed to open a strong show.
Artistic Director Hannah Jeffery decided to relocate the show to the Swinging Sixties, complete with many a flower garland, peace sign and bare-footed hippie. The change worked well, allowing the original satire on the aesthetic movement in the late 19th Century to transfer to mocking the hippie counter-culture of the 60s. The costuming elevated this aspect of the production; including tie-dye galore and clashing florals. However, this level of creative vision was lacking in the set design.
While it could be assumed that with a comic opera such as Patience the musical talent would far outweigh the acting, this was far from true. Ruaridh Maxwell’s exaggerated, comical physicality captured the almost ridiculous exuberance of Reginald Bunthorne, champion of all things aesthetic, poetic and (judging from his leaps across the stage in attempts to escape his admirers) positively balletic. Graham Dalton dominated the stage as Archibald Grosvenor, displaying a self-assuredness that was faltering in the production as a whole. Lady Saphir and Lady Angela’s squabbles (Laura Briody and Rebecca Anderson) gave depth and humour to songs that could have easily ended up dramatically shallow. Lizzy Perry also stood out as the bitter and begrudging Lady Jane, faithful to Bunthorne to the end (and who knew a ukulele could be played so angrily?).
For all Patience’s high points, the production in its entirety suffered from static moments. A cast of 30~ is large, but by no means too large to make use of the Byre stage in ways other than forming a large kneeling circle. The choreography in “If Saphir I Choose to Marry” was refreshing when it should have been standard. The production team should have harnessed this potential more to enhance the fluffier, more frivolous nature of the show. Equally, the lack of set and inconsistent stage presences made dips in energy very clear, especially with those more comfortable singing than acting. Nevertheless, the show succeeded in making us laugh at the absurdity of a gaggle of fawning maidens blindly following around a poet, who even confesses to lacking poetic skills. On the whole, all involved should be commended on a light-hearted, frolicsome performance that made the 2 ½ hours speed by.