Upon entering Younger Hall one is confronted with a brightly-lit stage and a drunk supine in a sparse set of painted flats. The overture strikes up; the drunken fellow starts up and causes, through a contrived (get used it) series of events, the identity switch of two children. Thus does this picaresque pastoral of switched identity, and royally humorous pastiche of British republicanism, begin.
The sterling females of the chorus set the sunny mood and the entrance of the males provided the first of many excellently choreographed chorus scenes, which were made all the more so by the sumptuous costuming. The dance scenes throughout produced a well presented stage picture, and the crowd scenes, while in places a tad static, allowed the individual acting talents of the chorus members to be show off, especially in reactions to principles.
The entrance of the principles, however, highlighted some issues. Direction, appearing light-touch in certain key areas, led to some simplistic blocking decisions and clarity issues. That being said there were several outstanding individual performances. Playing the central two switched brothers, Laurie Slavin’s fine tenor, especially in his second act solo, was a good juxtaposition to the lucidity, and obvious love-of-language, displayed by Alex Levine; their female counterparts and wives, Maddy Kearns and Emma Rogers, displayed an equal command of character and superb timbre. Caroline Taylor’s silvery soprano cut a line of fidelity through scenes dominated by the massive and hilarious physicality of Ruaridh Maxwell, playing the duke and Caroline, his daughter.
The orchestration and conducting reflected a theme through the whole performance, whereby the maximum of humour was extracted from each scene; balance and control from the conductor, and the orchestra, emphasised the overall character of the music, and a particularly good wind section, to shine through. This was the general state of the performance, keeping the humour alive despite slight flaws overall. In their invocation of an Arcady that becomes a satire of nobility and republican tendencies, the cast and orchestra of The Gondoliers deserve to be commended.