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Gilbert and Sullivan Abridged (tour - Chelmsford, Civic Theatre)

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
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Oh dear! Parody can be the cruellest of theatrical genres. For the performers as well as for the audience. Take Gilbert and Sullivan Abridged which purports to be one of those evenings mounted by amateur performers, possibly for a good cause, which we've all experienced some where or other at some time. Lady Penelope has mustered two neighbours in Scratchy Bottom – dour Percival Ramsbottom and dandy Bertie Buckwheat – to join her in a whisk through the whole G&S canon.

Big mistake. Sending G&S up rotten is perfectly acceptable – anyone remember Anna Russell and her hilarious take on Wagner? Being constantly off-note and out of synch with the recorded piano accompaniment is not. Jane Webster has a trained voice, though a range which takes in the coloratura of Mad Margaret from Ruddigore and both Mabel and Ruth from The Pirates of Penzance is something of a strain, vocally speaking.

The Civic Theatre in Chelmsford, where I saw the show, isn't large but Eric Carte failed to put over the words of some of Gilbert's tongue-twisting patter songs with either clarity or panache. David Osmond twitters away in support, and there are some momentarily clever visual gags involving hats and other props. But they're not enough to make up for an evening of wasted opportunities.


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