Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield – 26 June 2021
Reviewed by Sally Richmond
To me, a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta should explode with jouissance, be injected with sharp humour and accompanied by the most delightful tunes that serve up a tasty dish of the absurd – and in this case – that dish was a pork pie! What may sound even more ludicrous is that the complete works of Gilbert and Sullivan could be performed in a tight 75 minutes but they were and brilliantly done so! Performed by Charles Court Opera’s, at the wonderful Lawrence Batley theatre, Huddersfield (where a very warm and covid-friendly welcome was received) the G & S Express truly brought the foolish follies of the Victorian age to life!
On board the G & S Express we meet an enigmatic gentleman, Poirot, who persuades the waitress, Bridgette, to serve him the quintessential afternoon high-tea despite it being late in the evening. The complaints about the pork pie are forewarned here and later on, the tea trolley is discovered massacred – shock horror – call the police! But, who could have committed such a terrible crime? There are some clues left on the trolley and Poirot takes it upon himself to solve this most farcical mystery.
Throughout the next 60 minutes we meet a whole host of characters from the Gilbert and Sullivan collection and who through the most comical of portrayals, invite us to observe the English class system with all its: insane constraints, Victorian gender roles and culture, excessive nationalism and the peculiar customs of the natives within this era (is it still relevant today one must ask?).
In this production, the parody and satire were pin-sharp and the plot so cleverly crafted that all the operas were woven together and formed the most witty and whimsical narrative. All three performers (Matthew Kellett, Catrine Kirkman and Philip Lee) the most energetic and exuberant recitals with smooth and flawless transitions into a whole host of characters. Each cast member had outstanding vocal ranges and how they constantly switched into different personas and regained the continuity of the story was exceptional. This of course could not have been achieved without the pianist (Musical Director David Eaton) who was a master at work and the powerful engine running the machine – first-class!
Charles Court Opera’s G & S Express is major coup of riotess jollity, silliness at its best and just the ticket to raise your spirits as you won’t fail to enjoy the sparkling melodies and hilarious joke-packed japes.