Having been a Gilbert and Sullivan fan since I was about 12, a chance to hear ALL their works in the space of 90 minutes sounded good – a really enjoyable evening’s entertainment. Having seen The Reduced Shakespeare Company’s hilarious, witty, slick production of that great man’s works a few years ago and an equally entertaining version of the bible, I was expecting a good night out.
Maybe paying £2 for a “programme” – a piece of card with a Union Jack on one side and biographies of the cast on the other – should have alerted us to the cheap-skate production we were in for. Even the programme sellers were apologising as they sold them.
Gilbert and Sullivan Abridged was performed by only 3 people, Jane Webster, a lady with a voice, though rather too much vibrato, David Osmond, a young tenor, quite pleasant to listen to on his own but who had difficulty holding his own line against the wobble, and Eric Carte, who did the patter songs but didn’t know the words and couldn’t sing.
The premise of the so called story was that these people belonged to a rather debilitated G&S Society from a village called Scratchy Bottom and at first I thought they were acting – pretending that they couldn’t sing. Believe me, these three would not pass an audition for the chorus of ANY self-respecting G&S society.
It was toe-curlingly embarrassing, especially as most of the 600 people in the audience were G&S aficionados, many of whom could have got up on stage and performed a great deal better than what was on offer.
The pianist was presumably too embarrassed to appear. There was no piano – only a recording of what sounded like a fairly run-of-the-mill electronic keyboard which, of course, didn’t follow the soloists or allow any time for the ad libs which are so much a part of the patter songs. The fact that the performer didn’t know the words and came in a bar late at times, was not helped by the accompaniment galloping on regardless. With only 3 players, one sound man and maybe a roadie, they could have afforded a really good live accompanist, which might just have salvaged at least some of the numbers.
Poor Wand’ring One was sung in Eflat when it should have been in Aflat – do they think we don’t know these things? She could have got up there if she had tried – though playing the part of the policeman doing the tarantaras in bass register can’t have helped her voice any! A chorus of pirates and policeman represented by two men and a woman should never have been attempted. It sounded like one man and his dog!
It would be rude to call this performance amateur – there are so many amateur (i.e. unpaid) societies who could have done a far better job than this. This performance was under-rehearsed, badly cast, badly written and not entertaining in any way, shape or form. The full house at Malvern Forum Theatre was cheated.
We were not the only ones to leave at the interval. There was no hope of it improving in the second half. There are many performances scheduled around the country in the next few weeks. Take my advice – if you’ve already bought a ticket, stay at home, paint a wall and watch it dry. It will be a better use of your time.
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