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Review of Patience performed at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton by the Northampton Gilbert & Sullivan Group

There is the distinct possibility that Gilbert & Sullivan has the potential to become one of my more curious favourites. I have never been an immense fan of opera itself, although never having seen one live, the potential is perhaps still there. However G&S appears to be in a strange world between opera and musical that strangely appeals. It is perhaps the shear silliness of the stories they tell, and now having seen three, the perhaps familiarity of what you are going to get, that makes them interesting.

It was abundantly clear on the evening I saw it, that I generally didn't fit the average viewer of G&S age wise, with it feeling more than ever like a pensioners night out, with just a small scattering of us under forties (of which I have the pleasure of writing for just two more months). It is a shame though because I am sure the younger populace would have enjoyed this little show a fair bit as well.

Patience or Bunthorne's Bride tells the story of the rivalry between two poets, Reginald Bunthorne (Paul Darnell) and Archibald Grosvenor (Simon Crask) and their adoration seemingly from all females. Their love and delight of these two poets leads the ladies to follow them everywhere they go, pied piper like, seeking to be chosen as their suitor. It is really rather silly, but this is pretty much where G&S lies. This is not highbrow entertainment, just frankly ridiculous fun.

The two male leads have tremendous fun in their roles, delivering the comic persona's well. Darnell in particular (so brilliant in Yeomen of the Guard last year), manages to force his way out of the ridiculous wig and facial hair to create an even more ridiculous character. Crask also, a more flowery poet, minces his way around the stage, suffering stress from being persuade at every moment by the ladies. Like I say, this is all crazy, what man would ever be like this pair?

Their affections though lie beyond all these willowy ladies, as they truly want Patience (Rachel Bedford), a dairy maid with no knowledge of love and a stuffed cow for company. I have seen Bedford a couple of times and she always delivers bold and brassy characterisation coupled with impressively powerful singing. Here she is in as confident and on form as ever, playing deliberately and devilishly with the men's affections.

From the other performers, I particularly liked Mike Gray as Colonel Calverley, delivering the typical quick paced song of "If you want a receipt for that popular mystery" with relish and impressive style. Rosie Watts as The Lady Saphir was particularly captivating in performance and delivered her singing numbers gorgeously. Finally Susan Drake had tremendous fun as Lady Jane, with her "Sad is a woman's lot" a huge highlight from the show which was extremely and rightfully well received from the audience.

Director and set designer Leon Berger keeps everything very traditional making this pure original Gilbert & Sullivan. The scene transitions are quick and smooth, while the set, while plain provides a functional backdrop for the performers to create the show around.

Patience is of the three G&S shows I have seen, my least favourite, however that is more that the others are so strong and with more familiar songs. What Patience still has in spades in this production, is the obvious and dedication of the full company. If you are a G&S fan, this provides a full evening of entertainment you shouldn't really miss. If you have never seen one, perhaps like I did two years ago, head to find out if it might be for you. It could unexpectedly become your thing as well.


Performance reviewed: Tuesday 21st March, 2017 at the Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton.

Patience runs until Saturday 25th March, 2017 at the Royal & Derngate, details here: https://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/whats-on/patience/

For further details about the Royal & Derngate visit their website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/


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