Monday, 7 October 2013

Gilbert & Sullivan "The Mikado" opens this evening Saint David's Players under the direction of Jane May with Orchestra musical direction by Nicky Perry Barnfield Theatre Exeter Tuesday 8 October 2013 Updated - with full review

Nicky Perry
Director of Music
Jane May
Producer &  Stage Director
Opening Night
Pooh-Bah (Ian Spackman), Pitti-Sing (Sarah Ford)
Nanki-Poo (Mark Hurford), Yum-Yum (Totty Tucker)
The Mikado of Japan (John Stewart)
Katisha (Sheena Galpin), Ko-Ko (Tim Hunt)
Peep-Bo (Hannah Mountain), Pish Tush (Rob Chave)
Plus Men's & Women's Choirs - & Acrobats!
Director of Music: Nicky Perry

(Susan James)
(Anne Luffman)
This delightful operetta is just the thing to ease us into the English autumn. What could be better on a dark evening, with winter drawing in, than a fantasy outing to the fictional town of Titipu in Japan, as imagined by William Gilbert in the 1880s.

To open the proceedings Nicky Perry conducts the mini-orchestra in Arthur Sullivan's overture, which includes a sensational solo by oboist Julia Hill.

Men's Chorus

Nanki-Poo (Mark Hurford)
"A Wand'ring Minstrel, I"
To ensure that the audience are paying full attention, the stage action starts with extremely impressive acrobatics by three highly skilled gymnasts (Steve Jehu, Tim Champion and Daniel Iley) - dressed and made up as Samurai warriors of course, by a tireless backstage crew led by Helen Mountain and Susan James.

Ko-Ko (Tim Hunt)
     Has a little list . . .
The operetta is developed beautifully. Each scene is a feast of colour and movement as the cast members show off their dazzling costumes and execute their dizzying dance moves. The acting is superb - Mark Hurford and Tim Hunt interact perfectly. A new face for St David's Player is Totty Tucker, who plays the object of both male leads' affection - Yum-Yum. Her responses to the many changes in her fortune are very cleverly done, bringing out Gilbert's intended humour as fresh as if it were 1885!
Pooh-Bah (Ian Spackman)

Rob Chave has the honour of introducing the plot in song as Noble Lord Pish-Tush. A very demanding song which he delivers with skill and zeal. Later his essential input to plot development is subtle and effective. Equally impressive, is Ian Spackman as Pooh-Bah (with more official titles than one could remember), a magnificent and hilarious presence in almost every scene. Ian shows his understanding of Pooh-Bah's complex comedic character - splendid and impressive, but at the same time unworldly and insecure.

Women's Chorus

     Three Little Maids from School . . .
Pitti-Sing, Yum-Yum & Peep-Bo
(Sarah Ford, Totty Tucker

& Hannah Mountain)
Yum-Yum's school chums are played exquisitely by Hannah Mountain and Sarah Ford. Sarah is a memorable presence throughout the story, as her character Pitti-Sing goes on to take an active role in the developing drama as Yum-Yum's close companion and confidante.

As the first act closes Sheena Galpin takes things to a new level, appearing as Nanki-Poo's abandoned fiancée Katisha. Sheena makes a stunning entrance - her barely contained rage would do justice to the Queen of the Night in Mozart's 'Magic Flute'! She also has a chance to show a more tender aspect to her character later (but we can't go into that here!)

Last to appear is The Mikado himself, played by St David's Players veteran John Stewart. This pivotal figure benefits from John's skilful handling. Compassionate, but unflinching in his execution of justice, The Mikado combines affability and terror in equal measure.

Most important of all is the singing. Two choirs, one male one female, sing in perfect synchrony allowing Gilbert's clever wording to be heard without difficulty. Not only do they sing beautifully, they do it with feeling - and while executing equally expressive dance moves, choreographed by Director Jane May.

The trademark Gilbert and Sullivan speed-songs, jam-packed with tongue-twisters and spell-binding word-play, are perfectly delivered by each character in turn. For pathos (e.g. Ko-Ko's doleful song 'Tit-Willow') Mark Hurford and Tim Hunt excel. The well-known lyrics take on a new lease of life as the singers stamp their own individual personality on them.

Hope . . .

Some songs are updated (by an uncredited hand), especially 'I have a little list . . . ', in which Tim enumerates many potential executionees - including at least one member of the company! A very engaging development of the score.

As intended, the action and singing on stage completely draws attention away from the orchestra. However, they need special mention for their exceptional musicality. Packed into two rows right next to the stage, the nine instrumentalists play unstintingly, and with perfect expression and precision throughout. This is thanks in no small part to the artful direction of conductor Nicky Perry. Often conducting complex dialogue in song, and the full orchestra at the same time, Nicky's energy is boundless. Although the audience can't see it, she if often singing along lustily herself!

Katisha (Sheena Galpin)
Ruth Molins, with her new flute, joins Julia Hill in the woodwind section. Ruth is rarely heard in isolation but always provides an ullulating undercurrent. Charles Hughes (who has directed his own G&S productions at the university) provides a soulful bassoon continuo - and listen out for his comic sound effects too! Likewise, Michelle Hiley's bass drum and triangle ring out prominently at high points in the action - and always with total confidence.

Faultless musicianship
Full marks to Director Jane May. This production does what Gilbert and Sullivan set out to do. From the first moment the sound and action transport the audience to a magical world of intrigue and excitement, while the costumes and props (particularly and bewildering array of Japanese fans courtesy of Wakefield G&S Society) confuse and fascinate the eye.

This show runs until Saturday - with a Saturday afternoon matinée for families. Several more opportunities to see this wonderful performance. After 43 years in the saddle, The Saint David's Players are still at the top of their game!

Fabulous choreography

St David's Players
St David's Players
Exeter Barnfield Theatre
Tuesday 8 - Saturday 12 October 7.30pm
Saturday 12 October 2.30pm
Producer: Jane May
Musical Director: Nicky Perry
Tickets: £12 (student/child £10)
Box Office: 01392 271808 10am-4pm Mon-Fri

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