The Ignatians’ motto is for the sheer fun of it and it is obvious from the moment the curtain parts that every member of the cast is determined to live up to their collective creed. It is equally obvious that director Leo Bradley and his creative team have paid enormous attention to detail with a set and staging that goes way beyond our reasonable expectations of a community theatre company.
The play opens with the screening of a series of cleverly contrived newspaper headlines and posters that set the scene for The Gondoliers, Gilbert and Sullivan’s well loved comedy of errors.
On their wedding day two brothers, Marco (James Ebdon) and Giuseppe (Bruce Edwards) Palmieri, learn that one of them is really the son of the King of “Capricornia”. Stolen as an infant he has been raised as a gondolier. But which one is the prince? Until the mystery can be solved they must leave their new wives in Venice and travel to Capricornia to jointly reign over the kingdom. In Capricornia they wile away their time with sport and partying until their forlorn wives Gianetta (Diipti Firmstone) and Tessa (Cassandra Seidemann) decide enough is enough and sail off to be with their men. The plot is further complicated by news that Casilda (Bronte North), daughter of the conniving Duke (John Smiles) and Duchess (Margaret Lawless) of Plaza Toro, was the infant bride of the infant prince which makes one of our would be kings an unintended bigamist.
Who is who will only be revealed when the commissioner tracks down and interviews Inez Majorca, former nanny to the Prince of Capricornia. Until that happens there is ample scope for both music and mirth.
Leo Bradley has taken considerable liberties with the libretto, updating many of the political and social jibes in the original and tailoring them for a contemporary local audience. The changes are completely in accord with the spirit of the original and seamlessly blend into the production. The sets too, are excellent, particularly the opening scene in a busy Square in Venice. It emulates a postcard the Venetian waterfront as a backdrop with our brightly dressed chorus coming to life in a blaze of gaiety and song. Everywhere we see the enormous attention to detail, whether it be the faint moonlighting of the bridal party, the costuming or the well choreographed interplay of the chorus in the crowd scenes.
Musical director and conductor Delena Gaffney has done an excellent job with her 18-member orchestra. It plays with a real unity of purpose and captures the jauntiness of the music. At first I thought the orchestra was playing a touch loudly, with a number of the principals struggling at times to be understood across the orchestra pit, but on reflection that may have had more to do with the projection of the voices or the acoustics, than the loudness of the music. Certainly Sheldon Mathieson, as the Royal Commissioner Don Alhambra del Bolero, had little difficulty being heard and understood. For the most part the voices of Bruce Edwards and Diipti Firmstone also projected well.
There was no difficulty hearing the chorus, a hearty group of men, women and children of Venice. Their voices blended expertly and they brought a real sense of fun and enthusiasm to everything they did. The children are particularly delightful and approach their allotted tasks with a mixture of candour and bemusement. Our Gondoliers (Ebdon, Edwards) and their wives (Firmstone, Seidemann) have a great feel for comedy, particularly visual gags. Their timing is excellent and the interplay between them works well.