May 5, 2010

Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich

Now here’s a howdy do, a strange and crazy paradox for I find myself reviewing ENOS yet again thanks to Sue’s holiday arrangements. Ruddigore, but not as you know it; for this production was set in a village on the North Norfolk coast during the spring of 1943.

The male chorus consisted of USAAF Personnel while the female chorus of professional bridesmaids, when not engaged in their employment (sorry – wrong operetta), were land army girls. I wondered how this would work, especially considering the sailor’s first song about the French ship. However, my vague history of the second world war recalls Operation Catapult (3 July 1940 at Mers-el-Kebir) where the British Navy attacked and sank part of the French fleet with far more devastating results than just the derogatory insult of “Mounseer d’ye see”. So, from an historical point, this juxtaposition of time and place just about worked.

Wartime Britain this may have been, but there was no rationing of talent here, and young talent at that. I suppose the cynic would ask why Tom Corfield (Sir Ruthven) was not in uniform, but as a farmer I guess he was classed as a reserved occupation. There was nothing reserved about his performance though playing the shy would be suitor of Rose Maybud, with good comic timing, agile stage presence and a fine voice. Gennie Plunkett (Rose) introduced an air of grace and beauty to proceedings playing the archetypal English Rose as a nursing sister. Andrew Inglis (Richard Dauntless) made good use of the opportunities presented to him and will, I hope, continue to develop his craft in this sphere of performance. The mad aspect from Sally-Anne Clarke (Mad Margaret) was a little under played perhaps but her singing and comedy timing, especially with Clive Swetman (Sir Despard) was very good. It was a real treat to see four young people performing G&S to such good standards and it seems almost churlish to say the only character out of place was that of Sir Despard. Not in respect of performance, far from it, Clive Swetman’s style on stage is in my view the very essence of G&S. His stage presence, movement and timing great to watch and I am sure he must be a fine role model to learn from for the clutch of young members in ENOS. Good support from Robert Collingwood (Servant), Ros Swetman (Hannah) and Mark Horner (Sir Roderic) ensured there was not a weak link in the principals.

The troupe of professional bridesmaids moved and acted as one with good effect, their collective antics and facial expressions never waned, and other members of the chorus provided the necessary local characters of the village with equal success. There was a good balance between the orchestra and performers and good pace on the whole and the near faultless opening night performance showed little sign of any first night nerves. With fine costumes and an excellent set, especially the art work ENOS provided a most enjoyable evening out in Norwich.

Report by Jim Farr.