The Gondoliers

Date 2nd April 2022
Society Gosforth Musical Society
Venue Trinity Church
Type of Production G&S
Director Laurence Scott
Choreographer Glynda Blackburn


Author: Michael L Avery

For the past two years I’ve only seen and reported on one show, this being the second. As always, I admit to not being a Gilbert & Sullivan aficionado and this, I believe, is the first time I have actually seen The Gondoliers. I know! For those who are like me, a little plot synopsis might be appropriate. In Venice, the contadine (Italian peasant girls, according to Google) are gathering to cast their collective hats into the ring to attract the attention of two of the gondolieri brothers, Marco (Gavin Jarvis) and Giuseppe (Andrew Watson). The lucky ladies are Gianetta (Francesca Henzell) and Tessa (Elizabeth Hamer). All four seem keen on their respective matches and are married in the twinkling of an eye. Unfortunately, one of the boys was swapped, as an infant by the odious Grand Inquisitor of Spain (Steven Aitchison) and is, in fact, the rightful king of Barataria. Worse still, it seems he had his troth plighted, as an infant, to Casilda (Rachel Alpin), a Spanish nobleman’s daughter, now the rightful queen of Barataria. But which of the boys is the King and how can these complications be resolved. The two newly wed couples are not keen on being rent asunder.

Meanwhile we meet Casilda’s parents, the urbane and funny Duke of Plaza-Toro (Laurence Scott, who also directs) and the Duchess (Julia Neale). They are obviously anxious to resolve this conundrum whilst ensuring their daughter remains Queen. Fortunately, Chris Goodall is lurking in the background as Luiz, the Duke’s Attendant Drum who, together with Esther Cohen-Tovee, as Inez the King’s foster mother, may provide a solution satisfactory to all concerned.

The two couples are very well matched, clearly comfortable in their roles and demonstrate pleasing solo voices when required to do so.  The Duke, Duchess and their daughter make an amusing if formidable and tuneful trio.

Arising from complications courtesy of the pandemic, the production is described as "a semi-staged version with orchestra".  It works well.  There are no sets, costumes are minimal (apart from principals) comprising mainly pretty dresses for the ladies of the chorus and stripy tops for the male chorus.  In his guise as Director, Laurence Scott, with choreographer Glynda Blackburn, fills the modest raised platform (in lieu of stage) with a cast of 25 tuneful and accomplished players, although there may only have been three or four of them on stage on many occasions.  As always, musical director Phil Hall assembles a very impressive 16 piece orchestra to help move the action on tunefully.  There are one or two adjustments to some lyrics and dialogue to make passing comment on the present state of the world, which are greeted by the audience wih amused chuckles.

The Chorus, as always at Gosforth, sound as good as ever, when they have the opportunity to sing together. The music and dialogue flows smoothly, lyrics and lib are performed clearly, helping the audience pick up on the humour - although I imagine most of the audience knew in advance what to expect. An evening of charming, if slightly convoluted, entertainment.