It’s Strephon

London

No stranger to the Coliseum Theatre is your correspondent, and while I by and large enjoy the English National Opera productions, many of which are superb, I’d never seen any of the quintessential Gilbert and Sullivan. That changed the other night.

G&S, as I’m now qualified to call them, inhabit an uncomfortable slice of the opera spectrum, with a reputation as being middle-class, middle-England, and middle-of-the-road; one foot in the lifeboat of political satire and the other on the dwindling iceberg of frivolous entertainment. Enough with the metaphors.

I’m making ‘entertainment’ sound beneath contempt, which isn’t my intention; being simply entertaining is a great skill, and indeed this production of Iolanthe achieved it – and a lot more besides.

Also refreshing to see the Coliseum full. It’s a large house and I’ve seen great performances of Mozart and Puccini, Strauss and Delibes, playing to two-thirds capacity. Perhaps back-to-back G&S is what the ENO’s needs to end it’s constant flirtation with financial disaster.

Hardly the youthful audience the ENO dreams of though; I’m in my mid-fifties, and it’s unusual that I lower the average age of any gathering, but this was certainly an exception. The assembled snowbirds didn’t necessarily get what they were expecting, judging by the reaction of the stony faced couple next to me who seemed determinedly unamused. A dancing peer-of-the-realm falling spectacularly off the roof of a full scale stream train: not a glimmer of a smile. An irrelevant pantomime cow wanders across the stage and joins in the chorus: nothing. Another peer with a badly behaved terrier glove-puppet (memories, for me, of Spit the Dog): nada.

Even my favourite gag of the night, the Fairy Queen’s constant mispronunciation of the leading character’s name ‘Strephon’ as ‘Strapon’ – which if you ask me got more hilarious every time – didn’t crack their granite expressions.

Nonetheless, you can now count me as a Gilbert and Sullivan fan. The skilful combination of wit and charm, especially in the hands of such an accomplished company, nailed it.


Buy me a drink and I’ll tell you some lies

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Days and days

London

Does the inevitable living death of the day obscure the sparkling vitality of the night before? A night of beauty and passion curtesy of Puccini and Domingo, Scarpia and Tosca, and the companionship of angels.

London continues to offer this jaded old hack glimpses of a life worth wasting, flashes of technicolor in the shadows, beauty on which to rest a restless eye. Last night, in all its light and shade, was one of those nights, just one of those things, gossamer wings.  A break in this succession of fruitless days and lost evenings. An invitation to the opera, a box with friends. A sumptuous sensual delight, finished off with the rough wit of a drag queen.

And then here I am again, the day after, listening to the constant cynical tick-tock of the great clock; the only clock that matters. Hours slide past like polished ice under this sled’s skinny runners. I wonder what’s next as my carefully listed daily tasks sit and rot away through lack of attention, and suddenly the day has passed away, and my solid achievement is the consumption of three episodes, previously watched.

I turn and gaze back over the undulating landscape of my past, complete with occasional jagged peaks and chasms, and my inner face, battered and bloodied by decades of frustration, starts to talk once again: get off your arse. Get out. Sieze the fucking day. Roll over and close your eyes.

And so here I am, just me, sharing with you, whoever you are, the bland reality. I might write more tomorrow, or next year, or next life. I might not.


Buy me a drink and I’ll tell you some lies

£5.00