Having conducted all of the major Gilbert and Sullivan operettas with the Savoy Society of Ottawa during its heyday, it was with considerable interest and anticipation that I took my place in the Royal George Theatre (no finer venue for W.S. Gilbert’s satire on all things Victorian!) to partake of the seldom-seen tale of a proposal-aholic and the power of money over real love.
A wee bit of artfully staged vaudeville (courtesy of director Morris Panych, a.k.a. the Father of Invention—complete with the act-shortening cane!) set the tone of silliness to come (“My family doesn’t know I’m on the stage”) and undying, sudden passion based on deep pockets rather than strength of devotion which permeates the ensuing drama.
Once the play proper emerged from behind the curtain (with Ken MacDonald’s “thistleodeon” set at one with the utter nonsense from “my Past, my Present and my To Come”), the riot of tartan costuming (Charlotte Dean wonderfully draping the players, whether country bumpkins, persons of means or those who well know how to wear a kilt “regulation”), generously seasoned with Scottish brogue thicker than morning mists on Loch Ness, left no doubt whatsoever that we were in the land of Sean Connery (Brexit—stage left!).
With a working spinning wheel and water well between them, Mrs. Mcfarlane (Mary Haney in especially naughty form) and daughter Maggie (sporting heavily tattooed arms and boots most surely made for walking, Julia Course convincingly exuded the tough-love practicality of her pivotal character at every turn of the “hairt”), opening the antics along with dirty-kneed, man-about-the-pasture Angus Macalister (a literal tear-in-your-“ee” performance from the ever-zany Martin Happer), the capacity audience was captured from the git-go.
Next up, fellow elopers Belvawney (Jeff Meadows, ever so dapper in cool shades) and the lime of his life, Belinda Treherne (swooner extraordinaire, Nicole Underhay), dutifully pledge love-to-the-grave—provided Belvawney’s curiously earned income continues (his £1,000 per annum will be cut off with either the marriage or death of his benefactor’s son)
Thus the stage was set for Uncle Symperson (Shawn Wright in fine form) and his impetuous ward, Cheviot Hill (Gray Powell), to work their way into the festivities and let proposals of marriage begin anew!
As a man of means who’d likely propose matrimony to a female goat—should she cross his path—Powell drives the farcical plot with verve, innocent charm and a voracious libido that turns the crank of his numerous intendeds almost as much as his obvious wealth.
But when train No. 2 is also stopped in its tracks due to the entrepreneurial spirit of honest Angus (no worries: the storyline doesn’t count but the jokes do matter), Major McGillicuddy (Ric Reid delivering a side-splitting take on the overly mustachioed military man who’d been left at the altar by Belinda mere hours ago) storms into the glen with pistols cocked and ready to avenge a lover’s shattered pride.
Alas, alack, alarum—just as the intermission began my recently well-travelled knees collectively cried out, “Enough!”
Not wanting to be hauled out of the auditorium by crane after the remaining two acts were done (some might say a critic’s comeuppance!), I wisely—if regretfully—escaped (slow march) into the blazing sunlight and off to the nearest clinic and apothecary for relief.
Not even Gilbert’s whacky hilarity could balm those swollen joints.
No doubt, the love-lost and love-struck characters had a happier ending than mine. JWR