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Patience ETO

The Birmingham Post isn’t always able to post online everything that I’ve written for its print edition, so – after a suitable time lag (ideally you should go out and buy the paper) – I’ll be posting my recent reviews here. As per the print edition, they’re all fairly concise – just 250 words. This is of a performance at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre on Monday 10 April 2017.

You have to be pretty silly to take Gilbert and Sullivan seriously. But a lot sillier not to. With the CBSO’s superb concert performance of The Yeomen of the Guard still fresh in the memory, English Touring Opera’s staging of Patience arrived in Wolverhampton (it visits Cheltenham and Warwick shortly). Patience is G&S’s satire on Aestheticism: the 19th century fad for languid sighs, poetic airs and generally wafting about trying to live up to one’s blue china.

And if we don’t see it more often, that’s probably why. Gilbert’s never sharper and Sullivan’s score is Mendelssohn-level ravishing, but unless you’ve got a sensational Reginald Bunthorne (G&S’s version of Oscar Wilde), you haven’t really got a show. The great news is that ETO have. Bradley Travis drifts in wearing a velvet beret and brandishing a peacock-feather quill. With a hand to the brow and an infinite variety of languorous poses, he sashays away with every scene in which he appears.

Which, given the quality of the rest of the cast, is saying something. Ross Ramgobin is dapper and droll as his rival Grosvenor, Lauren Zolezzi is picture-perfect as the milkmaid Patience and Valerie Reid gets the audience very much on side as Lady Jane – another of Gilbert’s ladies of a certain age. The singing throughout is both clear and expressive; Ramgobin’s baritone is particularly handsome and Zolezzi shapes a line with real style.

Add lovesick maidens, a detachment of heavy dragoons who deliver patter songs with rollicking vigour, Liam Steel’s lively direction and Timothy Burke’s luminous, feather-light conducting, and it’s hard to imagine Patience being revived more persuasively. Or indeed a funnier, fresher or more delightful night at the opera. Abandon any lingering prejudices about G&S: this was delicious.