Utopia, Limited had the shortest run of any of Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1890s productions, with Punch Magazine describing it as, “‘Limited’… in more senses than one”, so the attempt at a modern production provokes a rather considerable challenge for the Gilbert and Sullivan Society.
The director, Eugene Yamauchi, is well aware of the difficulties involved in such a production, and has made several alterations to shape the play into a humorous and well-rounded performance – resulting in a 19th century comedy seasoned with flourishes of modern wit.
After an afternoon perusing London’s flea market, Yamauchi (despite setting out with the brief of recreating a Utopia modeled on Hawaii) emerged with a collection of school uniforms and lifeguard outfits: an interesting idea about what a paradise should be like.
Such elements reflect the director’s quirky nature, which in turn contributes to the interesting staging of the production. Nonetheless, the alterations certainly leave room for the essence of the original charm, which remains in abundance. The clever dialogue and conversations marked by quick-witted retorts frame the music, which at times is both beautiful and powerful.
It is difficult not to be engrossed in the production’s atmosphere and wonderful music, which is conducted by Sam Williamson. Other notable performances are marked by the lovely voice of Gail Trimble and the multitude of hilarious expressions that adorn Matthew Hosty’s face.
The twenty-minute glimpse of the performance certainly left me wanting more, as I left the rehearsal space in the University Music department in eager anticipation of the continuation of the plot and of the usage of the space afforded by the Corpus Christi auditorium. It will be interesting to see whether the cast will be able to complete the difficult task of maintaining their high energy level throughout the entire duration of the long running time of the performance.
The production is well worth a watch – whether it is to see the interesting and amusing variations from the original engineered by Yamauchi, or for the music, which is also of a high standard and certainly makes up for a plot that is not Gilbert and Sullivan’s best.
Utopia, Limited will run from the 6th of June to the 8th of June (Thurs-Sat of 7th Week) in Corpus Christi Auditorium. Tickets available from £6 at http://www.wegottickets.com/ougss
PHOTO/ Andrew North