Christina Riley reviews a Gilbert and Sullivan classic, Princess Ida, at the Byre 


The Byre hosted Gilbert and Sullivan Society’s rendition of Princess Ida, a story of women’s anti-male sentiments overcome by love. Despite the sunny day, the opera, directed by Tabitha Benton-Evans, attracted a respectable crowd of both students and local residents alike in its matinee.


From curtain call, I was gripped with the sophisticated costuming and grand set design; coupled with the casts’ characterisation, the audience was transported into a fictitious world. The conviction of the chorus’ performance was exceptional, a consistent and entertaining addition to the show. The female cast stood out in particular, their vocals dominating and somewhat surpassing that of their male counterparts.


In solo performances many had issues with vocal projection, particularly when turning from the audience. This was somewhat a hinderance as in Patrick Rowan’s (King Gama) numbers the lyrics were laced with innuendo and jest, and therefore missing them was unfortunate. Minor inconsistencies such as this, along with some strained vocals, plagued a few of the performances. However, an otherwise sound performance from the cast and seamless instrumental from the orchestra was received well.


Rosie Beech (Princess Ida) gave a hauntingly beautiful rendition of ‘Minerva,’ her vocal range spectacular. In every performance, her voice commandeered the attention of the audience, validating her leading role and upstaging leading male, Peter Cushley (Prince Hilarion). Cushley’s performance was lacking against the flamboyance of his counterparts; his stage presence was questionable and seemed affected by nerves. However, when playing alongside others, Cushley’s performance was elevated to almost rival the comedy brought to the stage. Adorning the blue robes of the women, Cushley appeared to relax into his character, allowing himself to be funny and whimsical. Despite this, it was the secondary characters of Florian and Lady Blanch, played by Ben Connaughton and Alice Gold, who stole the show. Connaughton and Gold commanded the stage in every scene they featured in, their hilariously exaggerated expressions stealing the spotlight from the scripted characters.


Similarly, ‘We are warriors three’ and ‘This helmet, I suppose,’ performed by Lorne Scott-Kerr, Kyle Rodrigues and Andrew Johnston, were both lively and comical performances, parodying the masculinity they claimed to have. An unfortunate mistiming by Scott-Kerr interrupted the flow of their first song, but he was able to recover quickly, giving an otherwise strong vocal. Again, body language was used in its full capacity to give a convincing performance and they were a crowd favourite.


The longer second act lost the initial excitement and pace of the first but was reclaimed again in the culminating scenes. Driven mostly by the leading roles, the second act demonstrated that in this instance, the storyline of the major characters paled in comparison to what others brought to the stage; thus, it was easier to become invested in the comedy rather than the substance of the opera.


That being said, the show overall was comical, spirited and well executed. Comprising talented singing with constant laughter, the opera provided an all-round entertaining afternoon, thoroughly enjoyed by its audience.

STARS: * * *

Christina Riley