Thursday, 26 March 2015

patience - king's head theatre

Since I've seen my third Charles Court Opera production in a year, it's time I wrote up the earlier visits before covering the most recent.

On Monday 23 June 2014 I saw Patience at the King's Head Theatre. My first time there, though it's a very well-known pub theatre venue. I'd thought the venue was upstairs, but actually it was at the back. Unlike, say, The White Bear, it had a more traditional theatre layout, but small - a few rows of seats with an aisle down the middle, a slightly-raised platform, not very deep, for the stage. The set was well done - a bar counter running much of the width of the stage. I was in the front row, feet easily prop-upabble on the stage, if you weren't worried someone would trip over them.

It was Hei Mun who reminded me about it; she was going on a night I couldn't do, but I got a ticket for another night by myself. Also unlike White Bear, it is numbered seats. Also, as they said at the start when inviting later donations, the theatre is run quite separately from the pub, so they get no income from any pub sales, just their own programmes and ice-creams.

I don't know the full range of the Charles Court Opera expertise, but they've made a success of small-cast performances of Gilbert and Sullivan, in which essentially all the chorus parts are covered by the company, most of whom are playing named parts. You couldn't have fitted more people on the stage, really. One pianist accompanying.

(One of the things Twitter is good for: before I booked a ticket, anticipating that there would be piano at one side of the stage or the other, I tweeted to several people on Twitter who were either associated with the production or had tweeted about having seen it to ask which side the piano was on, so I could book a seat at the other end, the better to hear the singing. Someone told me, most helpfully, that it was stage right, and I booked accordingly.)

It was really good. Once again, the London fringe giving you productions and performances that are excellent and any match for anything in the West End. I hadn't seen Patience before - though I may have read it, when I had the two-volume Complete G&S text in my schooldays - but knew the general idea.

Before last year, I had only seen one or two G&S productions, a long time ago, since having been in them myself at school and university, and had concluded that they were more fun to be in than to watch. But these - and the Mikado (also small-scale) which I recently saw in the Charing Cross Theatre showed me I was wrong about that.

I'd forgotten what a high proportion of singing there was - they pack the songs in - and the text was really good too. It was very well performed; they certainly made it funny (by which I mean as funny as it was written), and although they didn't update it it didn't feel like a period piece. It was interesting that there were identifiably different kinds of voices; Patience in particular had what I thought of as a very operatic style, which I wasn't so keen on, though I don't have the understanding to explain what I mean by that. My favourite was certainly Amy J Payne, who played the Lady Jane; David Phipps-David as Bunthorne was also very good. But in fact, really, everyone was good, both in singing and delivering their lines (which they also sang very clearly, as well as those they spoke). (Three of the parts were played by different people on different nights; for the record, on my night I had Giles Davies, David Menezes and Richard Immergluck.)

Some reviews (fewer than usual appearing in the first couple of pages of results, either because of passing of time or just fewer reviews done). Webcowgirl. Standard. Britishtheatreguide.info. Ham & High.

Finally, here's the relevant Charles Court Opera past production page, complete with slideshow.