The Gilbert and Sullivan Newsletter Archive


No 7 — July 1977     Edited by Michael Walters

BARNES & RICHMOND O.S. The Arcadians, Richmond Theatre, 2 May, 1977

Admittedly I was quite merry and had gone to the theatre determined to enjoy myself, but I was quite bowled over by it all - really I had not thought it possible to do so much with the show. I have only seen it once before, in the dear old Grand Opera House in Belfast, produced by Leslie Jones (who created Agamemnon in the A.P.Herbert version of La Belle Helene) with Dennis Suffern as a rather aged Simplicitas, and David Erwin as a very debonair Jack. It then struck me as a more than adequate performance by a good company of a limp and third-rate musical comedy. Here, in the hands of Barnes & Richmond I saw what could be done with it, and what a superb role Simplicitas could be when entrusted to such a master comedian as Alan Titchmarsh. I had expected him to be good, but not as good as that. By no stretch of the imagination is The Arcadians a great work. The plot is thin, and rather twee. The score contains two beautiful ballads "Arcady is ever young" and "The pipes of Pan", both for the lead soprano (originally Florence Smithson, and I have her singing both); one famous comic song, "I gotter Motter", and one rather fine song and dance number "All down Piccadilly". The rest of the music varies between the mildly pleasant and the undistinguished. This production made you almost forget the eminent forgetability of most of the music. It probably goes without saying that I found Alan Titchmarsh’s performance the chief attraction of the evening. He romped through it with a sort of carefree abandon which seemed to say "Well I'm going to enjoy it, and up yours if you don't enjoy it too." He had every justification - it was his birthday! I couldn't help feeling that the supreme moment in his performance, a moment which would have daunted or embarrassed many, was when, clad in little more than a jockstrap and a miniskirt which left little to the imagination, and making love to the lady, he suddenly gathered the ends of the miniskirt into his crotch and walked gingerly offstage remarking "Oh, I think something has occurred."

Richard Matthiae gave a delightful character study of the doleful jockey, Peter Doody; and Ron Sellers wrung the last drop of comedy from the smaller role of Bobby, playing it in a "Oh, I jolly well say, old fruit," sort of way. Carol Vynall was a sweet-voiced Sombra, though she appeared to be pushing her voice on the top. Steve Alais was a trifle hesitant as Jack, he lacked the bland radiating charm necessary for this part - a charm which David Erwin had in full perfection, and which made him the star of that production. Somebody really ought to have told Steve how to sit when one is wearing tails. Wendy Taylor was excellent as Eileen, though her Irish accent was suspect (but that's coming from an Irishman.) David Armstrong was suitably peppery and unpleasant in the non-singing role of Sir George Paddock. The sets and costumes were excellent. The orchestra was much too loud from where I was sitting in the front row of the stalls, surely a musical director should be able to keep an orchestra quiet? Barry Knight gave me the impression that he was conducting the orchestra rather than the singers, but I may be being unfair.


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