1-2 February 2017
Reviewed by Ann Durrell
After having the pleasure of watching Opera Della Luna’s productions of The Gondoliers and Orpheus in the Underworld I was looking forward to seeing their take on Tales of Offenbach. The Tales of Offenbach is a double bill of the two of the composer’s ‘operettas in one act’ Croquefer and L’lle de Tullpatan by Jacques Offenbach. This production is completely new version by Director Jeff Clarke, performed in English.
First on the bill is Croquefer, a soldier who has been locked in battle for 23 years with his arch enemy Rattlebone, who incidentally has lost half his limbs and his tongue during the crusades. Rattlebone is preparing to attack Croquefer who has kidnapped his daughter Peasblossom. Enter Croquefer’s dashing nephew Headstrong, the hero of the hour looking to defend his uncle’s honour. What happens next is almost too silly to begin to explain but involves poison wine, forgotten love and a bout of the runs on the battlefield!
After the first operetta is apparently shut down by Salford Council due to an excess of speaking characters, giving opportunity for a break, quick change of stage (and costume) we are ready for the second performance, L’lle de Tullpatan. Boys brought up as girls falling in love with girls dressed as boys, throw in a handful of secrets a Duke, a Field Major General and his protective wife it makes for a hilarious tale (and my favourite of the two).
The cast of five, Carl Sanderson, Caroline Kennedy, Robin Bailey, Paul Featherstone and Lynsey Docherty are all outstanding. Supported by an orchestra of nine, they delivered an almost faultless performance.
Robin Bailey as Hermosa in L’lle de Tullpatan is bellyaching hilarious, watching his overexcitement at finally getting his hands on a gun left me virtually in tears. Similarly, his depiction of the dashing Headstrong in Croquefer left me laughing out loud. Paul Featherstone as Rattlebone muttered not much more than a grunt, albeit a tuneful one, then transforming to Duke Cacatois the 22nd was brilliant. I particularly enjoyed his Mick Jaggeresque dance moves in L’lle de Tullpatan. I did feel a little sorry for audience member Gemma when his flirting (in character) was in full flow. Lynsey Docherty as Princess Peasblossom, then Theodorine in L’lle de Tullpatan was also stand out and laugh out loud funny, she was absolutely fabulous (pardon the pun) channelling her inner Joanna Lumley! Caroline Kennedy pulled off a fantastic transformation from the slightly mentally unsound squire Fireball into the demure Prince (or should that be princess) Alexis. I nearly didn’t recognise Carl Sanderson after his transition from Croquefer to Field Marshall Rhomboid. A credit to his acting skills and also a credit to the costume designers.
Jeff Clarke’s arrangement is brilliant, even taking the time to take the mickey out of how difficult the translation must have been from French to English. The link between sugar cubes and absinth and the alternative meaning of Canard could have been lost without the explanation. Clarke managed put the meaning across without distracting from the performance.
To pair such strong vocal talents with stand-out comedic performances is a talent of the company. I can officially count myself as a lunatic (their words not mine! I left the theatre still giggling and singing along, this performance is an absolute must see, catch it or miss out!
Opera della Luna’s Tales of Offenbach is currently on tour, for more information and dates visit www.operadellaluna.org.
For other shows at The Lowry in Manchester visit www.thelowry.com.
The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, Manchester, M50 3AZ | 0843 208 6000