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Posts Tagged ‘Mark Gillon’

It’s beginning to look like the Union Theatre’s all-male Gilbert & Sullivan’s are going to become as permanent a feature as Propeller’s all-male Shakespeare’s. This one is the fourth and the best!

The material itself is even more suited to the concept than it’s predecessors The Mikado, The Pirates of Penzance and Iolanthe. A satire on 19th century aestheticism featuring the rivalry between Grosvenor and Bunthorne for the heart of milkmaid Patience, whilst  a bunch of infatuated Lady’s and maiden’s swoon, pout and sigh, ignoring the attentions of a bunch of dragoons seeking to court and marry them!

Stiofan O’Doherty and Dominic Brewer are perfect as the vain effete aesthetes wrapped up in a world of poetry and beauty. Edward Charles Bernstone is a delight as (s)he moves back and forth between her two suitors. The dragoons are cartoon soldiers, clumsy & naive but lovable, in their tweed jackets, bowler hats, black boots and big belts. The Lady’s Jane, Angela, Saphir and Ella are all brilliantly played by Sean Quigley, James Lacey, Mark Gillon and Matthew Marwick, each a different personality, and the maidens (some doubling up as dragoons) glide along the stage in flower print frocks and cardies, brilliantly choreographed by Drew McOnie.

The musical standards are extraordinary (how do you find that many men who can sing that high?!) and the performances beyond charming. Kingsley Hall’s design is inspired. Even MD Richard Bates, who plays the whole score heroically on a solo piano, dons a frock! I smiled from beginning to end of this faultless production by Sasha Regan – and I’m not even a G&S fan! 

If you like musical theatre and you don’t like this, you’ll need therapy. GO!

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You only have one week left to see this UK premiere of a fascinating 1939 Broadway musical revue which started as a piece of left-wing satire by amateur trade union players. The timing could not be better and it’s been given a small but clever bit of updating that makes parts of it relevant enough to be performed by occupying students and Topshop invaders!

It was originally intended to be staged at the Arcola, but it’s much more at home in the smaller Cock Tavern which has been cleverly turned into a mini proscenium arch theatre with a curtain incorporated into Samal Blak’s design that could easily have been made from scraps of spare cloth by the ladies of the ILGWU (the union that originally staged it).

The show comprises 19 sketches and songs on a multitude of subjects  running for an uninterrupted 90 minutes. There are swipes at Mussolini and Hitler years before Mel Brooks gave us The Producers, comments of American nationalism and British colonialism, a satire on arts funding and artistic freedom and a song about advertising which amazes you with name-checks of brands of the time that are still with us today. Harold Rome’s songs are catchy and witty and somehow it has a lovely period feel but at the same time feels fresh and relevant.

I don’t know who does the casting at the Cock Tavern, but like the Bond plays they’ve assembled a hugely talented cast of nine, none of whom a theatre obsessive like me has seen before. They all deserve a name check, so they’re getting one! David Barnes, Mark Gillon, Laura-Kate Gordon, Josephine Kiernan, Elain Lloyd, Elizabeth Pruett, Rachel Rose Read, Matthew Rutherford and Adam Walker. David Preston plays all of the songs on the piano, occasionally joined by Rutherford on double bass. Director Rachel Grunwald is to be congratulated for the staging and for giving us the opportunity to see this fascinating show.

Seeing Fela! at the subsidised NT and this at the unsubsidised Cock Tavern in the same weekend certainly focused my mind on how our arts subsidies are shared around!

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