Douglas has been a professional food writer since 1986. He is also an award-winning actor and director in Community Theatre and has been for many years. His blog may be found at: www.urbaneguerilla.wordpress.com
A Right Rollicking Romp of Romantic Rhyme
In one of The West Wing episodes Sam Seaborn boasts that he was in the G & S Society and when someone can't recall the title of one their operas but remarks 'it's the one about duty' replies 'They're all about duty'.
Lady Angela (Marli van der Bijl) and Patience (Grace Feltoe) (Photograph courtesy of the G & S Society WA)
Even the lightly handled, but deeply satiric Patience is about duty - it's Patience the milkmaid's duty to love someone unworthy, because it would be too easy to love someone perfect. Which is a pity, as she's met the perfect poet - Archibald Grovenor.
Satire, as is frequently remarked, is an easily-dated, often two-handed sword. But with Patience Gilbert managed to write a libretto and lyrics that have lasted and stood the test of the passage of nearly a hundred and forty years - the audience at the 2018 G & S Society's performance being as whole-hearted and raptuously appreciative as that of the opening night in 1881.
Lady Angela (Marli van der Bijl) Bunthorn (Ross Bryant) and Lady Saphir (Emily Schinkel) (Photgraph courtesy of the G & S Society WA)
This, despite the fact that the aesthetic movement ('Art for Art's sake') of the 1870s and 80s is long forgotten, except for Oscar Wilde's green carnations and silk knee-breeches. Widely believed to be the model for Bunthorne, Wilde, in 1881 when Patience opened, had published nothing and was a late arrival to the Aesthetes, firmly established 'in stained-glass attitudes', by Dante Rossetti, Burne-Jones, Swinburne and Walter Pater.
But really, who cares? Certainly not anyone who enjoys Gilbert and Sullivan's Patience, because the music is so lovely and the dialogue so witty and delightful. Not as famous or well-known as Mikado or Pirates of Penzance, Patience is nevertheless a fruit of their middle period and show artists at the very height of their powers.
Colonel Calverley (Steve Sherwood) and the Lady Angela (Marli van der Bijl) in Patience (Photograph courtesy of the G & S Society of WA)
And it is this gem that is the current production of www.gilbertandsullivanwa.org.au" id="ccblink" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">WA's Gilbert and Sullivan Society. It was directed by the experienced and knowledgeable Alan Needham, no slouch as a performer himself. He has directed this particular production from an early version and with a light and delicate hand, emphasising the humour.
The plot concerns Reginald Bunthorne (Ross Bryant), a 'fleshly poet' of aesthetic bent with a 'morbid love of admiration' who enjoys the admiration of twenty love-lorne maidens, but who's eye is fixed upon the delectable Patience (Grace Feltoe) an unspoiled milkmaid.
The Duke of Dunstable (Tim Riessen), Colonel Calverley (Steve Sherwood) and Major Murgatroyd (David Cosgrove) (Photograph courtesy of the G & S Society of WA)
The attitude of the maidens is puzzling to Colonel Calverley (Steve Sherwood) and the Heavy Dragoons he leads who were previously engaged to the Bunthorne-bedazzled bevvy of beauties.
The production runs at Dolphin Theatre in the UWA campus, a charming venue and very suitable. The musical directors, Georg Corall and Michael Brett, have put together a wonderful score and a talented orchestra.
The delectable Grace Feltoe plays Patience with great charm and a beautiful voice, easily explaining Bunthorn's infatuation.
The ladies and gentlemen of the chorus of Patience (Photograph Courtesy of the G & S Society of WA)
The large cast are well chosen, exceedingly well costumed, and deeply committed to their roles. Ross Bryant as Bunthorne has the look of a diasppointed spaniel in his wig, but makes the most out of Gilbert's creation, which is not a mere spoof, but a real character. His devotee, Lady Jane (Belinda Cox) and he have a wonderful duet (So Go To Him) to which they do full justice.
Lady Jane is one of Gilbert's 'elderly ugly spinsters' played with great relish and gusto by Belinda Cox.
The lanky lovely Grovenor was taken by Wesley Williams who we saw last as Giuseppe in The Gondoliers earlier this year.
But the whole cast worked wonderfully well together, making a truly ensemble production, lovely to see with some really inspired touches of humour.
An excellent production which runs until the 15th September. If you can get tickets, do so. It will be along time before you get another opportunity to see so good a production of Patience.
Tickets cost from $19.90 and may be booked online at ticketsWA here.