"Delectable double bill of Sullivan"
by Michael Gray for remotegoat on 20/04/15

Trial by television ? Only a matter of time before, US-style, justice as entertainment comes to British screens.

One step ahead, as usual, Charles Court Opera's Trial By Jury [Court on Camera], has a floor-manager/usher warming up the jury [that's us on the King's Head benches] and flashing signs for applause and boos.

WS Gilbert meets Jeremy Kyle, with the Plaintiff and her friend as gormless Essex girls [“Come on Ange, do the dance !”], the bone-headed “bad lot” Defendant from the Arcadian vale of Peckham. These “very strange proceedings” also feature an unexpectedly bewigged, unconventionally robed judge, who, true to Gilbert's original, rises to the top by wedding the elderly ugly daughter of a rich attorney, and solves the judicial dilemma by marrying Angelina herself.

Faultless, achingly funny performances from a cast of seven, director John Savournin as the learned judge, Matthew Kellett as the besotted Clerk of the Court, David Menezes as the yobbish Defendant, Philip Lee as Plaintiff's Council, Amy J Payne as the strident Usher. And, best of all, Catrine Kirkman as the truculent bride-to-be, visibly a little late for her white wedding, and Nichola Jolley as her bridesmaid/best mate, the current object of the Defendant's attentions.
Musically, it's superbly done – the “Nice Dilemma” septet just one example – with David Eaton at the pub upright.

Trial by Jury is preceded here by The Zoo, another one-acter from the same year [1875] but with Gilbert replaced by “Bolton Rowe”. A revelation for many of us, coming up very fresh in this lively production. Like Trial, it's set in the present day, with the absurdities all the more entertaining for being in modern dress.

The comedy more memorable than the score, perhaps, though the love duets and the “Fare Thee Well” ensemble are lovely. The Duke of Islington in disguise [Savournin] working his way through the patisserie as he courts his Eliza [Jolley], Aesculapius Carboy the splendidly named apothecary and his Laetitia [Menezes and Kirkman], both equally geeky, with matching elastoplastered specs.

And her unlikely progenitor, bullish Mr Grinder [Kellett].

As in Trial by Jury, the happy-ever-after dénouement is “managed by a job” - and a good job too!

This delectable double bill, a welcome revival, plays at the King's Head until May 10.

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