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Edinburgh Fringe 2012

Gilbert and Sullivan in Brief(s)

Ingenious Paradox / Nick Brook Productions / Pleasance Trust

Genre: Opera and Operatic Theatre


Pleasance Courtyard


Low Down

Some wonderful G&S arias with superb singing from stand-out tenor Matthew Charles Thompson. But the dialogue could be a little stilted for some tastes and some of the puns you can see coming about five minutes before they arrive. That said, it’s still worth a look.



The premise of this show is pretty simple : four singers attempt get through all the G&S operas in an hour or thereabouts which effectively means each of the fourteen works get an average of four minutes exposure. However, given that little music survives for the first G&S compilation, “Thespis”, and that two others, “The Grand Duke” and “Utopia, Ltd” are rarely performed, the “challenge” starts to become more manageable. Or it would have been, had the quartet of a cast not wasted valuable singing time with dialogue that was at times pedestrian and where a number of the attempts by American writer/director Ray Cullom to create Victorian melodrama missed the mark. But as the show progressed, so the music took over and we saw the company play to their strength – their musicality.

With the four performers effectively forming the stock quartet of roles around which each G&S opera revolves – romantic male lead, delicate heroine, stately matron and scene stealing patter merchant – they trotted out a goodly selection of G&S’s most popular arias. 
Parker Andrews, as the patter merchant, doesn’t have the strongest of voices but he was more than capable at delivering the libretto; Carolann Sanita had all the attributes required of the delicate heroine and her soprano voice was full and rounded in tone; Kate Chapman looks a bit young to be a stately matron, but her mezzo voice was rich, warm and full of charm. But the singing star is most definitely the “romantic lead”, Matthew Charles Thompson. A tenor of sublime quality, freshness and clarity, he’s able to use this piece to demonstrate an astonishing range, from tenor up to a powerful soprano (falsetto) when he was occasionally required to perform female roles.
But what’s the verdict on this one? With a bit of an overhaul of the dialogue, this could easily be a show that truly sparkles. Tenor Thompson was worth the admission money on his own so if you can ignore the odd misplaced pun or two then it’s probably worth a go. Audience reaction to the performance I attended suggested that they’d done just that. 


Show Website

Queens Theatre