The Gondoliers

Date 9th May 2019
Society Eastbourne G & S Society
Venue Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne
Type of Production G&S
Director Wendy Dovey
Musical Director Pat White


Author: Anne Lawson

First performed in 1889 with the alternative title of The King of Barataria, the action takes place at The Piazzetta in Venice in 1750 and later in the sumptuous Pavilion of the Court of Barataria a few months later. The backdrop of Venice was quite beautiful, leaving an open stage strewn with red and white roses, with central steps leading from the back, where the canal ran by and where our two heroes emerge from a well-constructed gondola, dressed in familiar stripes, flannels and of course boaters and colourful waist sashes, not forgetting their musical instruments! They are greeted by traditionally attired peasant ladies all hoping to be their wives who opened with pleasing ‘List and Learn’. This topsy-turvy tale telling of two republican-minded brothers, gondoliers Marco and Giuseppe Palmieri, being blindfolded by a group of Italian peasant girls in order for them to choose a wife! They then discover one (neither of course knowing which) is heir to the throne of Barataria.  As per normal in G & S total confusion reigns. Stipulations are announced by Don Alhambra, a very smartly attired stockinged gentleman in black and red, mastering his rod, being played by Trevor Allen with command. The arrival of the Duke of Plaza-Toro, kerchief waving ‘limited company’ using his great facial expressions, so well characterised by Paul Eccles. His Duchess was regally performed by Alison King, hair coiffured elegantly, and his daughter Casilda ably portrayed by Rowan Stanfield.  Again superbly elegant who added much to the comedy moments, beautiful singing voice, audible diction, we heard excellent pieces, together with synchronised routines.

Young brides Lucy Sarsfield as Tessa and Victoria Langley as Gianetta worked hard creating good pairing with the two leading men. Tim Archer made a convincing character of the triconed Luiz, the Duke’s man of all things including a drum surprised us by being the real King, already in love with Casilda. The principals sang some delightful duets, trios, quartets and more, with back up from an enthusiastic harmonious chorus, with supporting cameo named parts completing the cast.

With Russell Ablewhite, both AMD and rehearsal pianist, and Pat White enjoying rehearsing her particular favourite G & S, once again took up the baton with her experienced orchestra. Wendy Dovey’s enjoyable direction, a little bit of up-to-the minute dialogue included, movement fluid, not too complicated, and a comic element throughout – particularly fun was the huge ice-cream licking entrance of Stan Fillery with the only chorus possible from our two Gondoliers – ‘Just One Cornetto’ etc.... amused  and pleased the audience. Using pictures of various trades/occupations together with the variety of matching headgear worked particularly well.

Beautiful colourful costumes came by courtesy of Berenice Costumes with Helen Morbey as Wardrobe Mistress, good make-up artiste was also responsible for the many excellent props. SM Steven Walter together with his crew, created imaginative lighting and sound, with Act 2 opulent showing off stately columns, thrones, padded chairs and rows of candelabra - well struck. 

Our two heroes complemented each other – with the taller Christopher Peck using his lower range as Giuseppe and Adrian Samuel ‘sparkling’ as Marco, his slightly shorter brother. 

The co-ordinated finale reprising the jolly ‘Cachucha’ after Inez (tiny Val Cornish) divulged the real heir and it was a happy ending for all.