Augustine’s @ 41 George IV Bridge
9-15 August, 20:30
This year the Edinburgh University Savoy Opera Group bring a ‘new lease of life’ to this heart warming, piratical extravaganza, conveying a fringe-energy only felt in the presence of raw, youthful talent.
Indeed, it was that well-known festival recipe of low-budget incidental-looking stage, set inside a dingy basement acoustic, which rendered the Company evermore impressively: angelic maidens sang alongside Sarah (Maria-Callas) Kim as ‘Mabel’, and Sam Cable combined hilarity with a wonderfully rich baritone in the part of the ‘Major General’.
The unison voices also showed polish: their diction had clarity, dynamics were evident, and the tone was warm. Sadly the acting did not meet such sophistication and some periods of dialogue were particularly drowsy, slipping into a monochrome, gung-ho amateurism. And even when admitting the production’s inherent limitations, the intimate scenes could only grasp at conviction. But never mind(!) because during the chorus this rigidity collapsed into a colourful and characterful harmony. Their jubilant efforts (as well as the programme-turn-pirate hat) innovated this well-loved Classic with a chortling charm, but unfortunately for me, the ‘lease of life’ came with an expiry date. The promised ‘biting wit’ did not deliver, although ‘beautiful songs and silly policemen’ abounded. Still, a safe choice for a family sing-along, and a definite must-see for Gilbert & Sullivan fans who are willing to forgive student nerves at the expense of a masterful attempt.