United Kingdom Gilbert & Sullivan, Princess Ida: York University Gilbert & Sullivan Society / Jess Douglas (conductor), Harrogate Theatre, Harrogate, 17.8.2015 (RJW)
Tom Bruggenwirth … King Hildebrand
Alex Davison … Hilarion
Andrew Hurst … Cyril
Christopher Oates … Florian
Euan Brook … King Gama
Peter May … Arac
Pierre-Alain Guillaume … Guron
Callam Neville … Scynthius
Annabel Gipp … Princess Ida
Georgina Pugh … Lady Blanche
Lily Manshel … Lady Psyche
Eleanor Dunsdon … Melissa
Meredith Daniel … Sacharissa
Jenny Jones … Chloe
Claire Smith … Ada
Directed and choreographed by Lydia Worrall & Adrian Horan
Here we have a production with a difference, homing in on the qualities of refined girls’ education brought up-to-date. For students in higher education they have a sensitivity and perspective based on their own younger experiences of ‘the system’ and here some of this eyewash introduced by blundering governments over the decades has been neatly exposed. The group had the foresight to play the music and lyrics straight, but the dialogue has been successfully revised by Lydia Worrall and Adrian Horan to provide modern overtones, and the update worked. There was the freshness to presentation that only university students can bring to a Festival performance, and this has to be admired. The singing was of high calibre throughout and the chorus worked well together. In the performance a number of neat dance sequences were introduced, the best being one to accompany the balletic “Oh, dainty triolet” number. Elsewhere, the stage was occupied by good and appropriate groupings that added a touch of professionality.
Act I was played in medieval dress and good use was made of one of the theatre boxes for Cyril to ‘search throughout the panorama’ with telescope to eye and later by Ida when she falls in Act II. Tom Bruggenwirth’s Hildebrand commanded with fair strength of character and the trio of courtiers, Hilarion (Alex Davison), Cyril (Andrew Hurst) and Florian (Christopher Oates) worked exceptionally well together as team-players. In the Act I finale the sons of Hildebrand neatly changed “Here! Here!” to “Here! Here! Where?” — such were the corners of amusement introduced by Worrall & Horan that impressed an unsuspecting audience.
The opening of Act II took a little getting used to since the college girls, with moderated St Trinian’s antics, were modernly dressed as were also the principals. Its classroom setting worked sensibly with the updated script once the transformation had been mentally accepted. Really amusing was the drag camouflage of the Prince and his Courtiers. High-heeled with knotted blouse transformed Cyril so well he would have fooled the strictest of Ofsted inspections. The script embellished this romp and the vocal numbers taken at a good pace blended well. A timely comment was made, “Still wearing mother’s clothes?” A refreshingly new slant is also provided for the on-stage luncheon picnic and the “Kiss me!” song which was fully in keeping with the situation.
A visual dichotomy of situations occurred when King Gama with his Warriors Three entered in their medieval costumes to meet the modern inhabitants of Castle Adamant. This time capsule identity can really only work in Dr Who and rarely elsewhere, I thought ‘O Mighty Must’, normally omitted, was nice to hear and was well sung. Lady Blanche (Georgina Pugh) ruled the roost with bustling activity and, anxious to take Ida’s place as principal, her forceful interventions were not over-played. The “Hoity, toity” harmony of Blanche and Melissa (Eleanor Dunsdon) was delightful, while the rousing finale was excellent in every respect to bring the Act to a close. The voices of the sons of Gama also gave good harmony and Arac’s Handelian “This helmet, I suppose” was most enjoyable.
This show, by a hard working crew who would otherwise be enjoying their vacation, was one to remember and Yorkshire citizens should make a point of trying to see their next York-based production (see here for announcements).
Raymond J Walker