United Kingdom Gilbert and Sullivan: The Grand Duke: Pocket G&S, Harrogate G&S Festival, The Harrogate Theatre, Harrogate, 13.8.2014 (RJW)
The Grand Duke Rudolph … Adrian Hickford
Ernest Dummkopf … David Tatnall
Ludwig Williams … Mark Ponsford
The Prince of Monte-Carlo … Matthew Sturgeon
Herald … David Putley
The Princess of Monte-Carlo … Lucy Whiteman
The Baroness von Krakenfeldt … Anne Croudass
Julia Jellicoe … Lisa Axworthy
Lisa Lane … Natalie Thorn
Bertha … Abigail Miller
Elsa … Louise Hodson
Director … David Tatnall
Musical Director … Martin Patterson
The Grand Duke is the opera in the G & S canon which has the most complex of Gilbert’s plots. Many variations and simplifications of this opera have taken place over recent years so it was interesting to discover how this group tackled their production.
Pocket G & S made a number of changes, reordered some of the vocal numbers and introduced a Grand Duke modeled on a Prince Charles lookalike (not, I hasten to add, in a derogatory way). At one point he is seen in a theatre box watching the stage performance.
The scene ‘Now take a card’ was well arranged with large well designed playing cards used to amplify the plot. A chase on the lines of a ‘Benny Hill meets the Keystone Cops’ was not out of place and gave a new slant to the stage business. Perhaps the crowning glory was the mention of appropriate puns like an ‘avocado’ (Mikado) song and fitting new topical lyrics to ‘A Broken down Critter’ which were both witty and cleverly fitted. A novelty was introduced where glove puppets, from behind the notary’s case, acted through an explanation of the 100 yr old law round which the Gilbertian plot hinges in ‘About a century since’.
The acting was convincing and a determined Julia kept up her German accent accurately throughout while the Grand Duke comfortably played an air of genial superiority, and theatre manager, Ludwig, bustled around keeping everyone in order with much theatrical energy.
The necessary use of a keyboard was far from ideal. I was not convinced that some of the keys of accompanying chords were as Sullivan had written them, yet this did not deter the chorus in their well-rehearsed singing.
It was an adventurous production where the audience warmed to the spirit of its presentation.
Raymond J Walker