Last night I went on the spur of the moment to see The Mikado with C at Buxton, part of the annual Gilbert & Sullivan Festival that they have there. It was okay (more of at a later date) but as we sat outside getting a drink during the interval we were both struck by how English (not even British, it seemed to eccentric for anyone other than Mad Dogs & Englishmen) it all seemed. Not the opera itself (although it is of course still a funny critique of English Culture) but the whole experience.
First there was the clientele. I think it was safe to say that we were both amongst the youngest there who hadn’t been dragged along by their parents, reducing the average age considerably. Everyone else fell into what can only be described as the type of person who sits on the Parish Council and writes stern letters to their local MP when Johnny Foreigner tries to move next door. But even that cannot be an excuse of why it felt that way.
No, the clincher had been the fact that the Festival Director had spent ten minutes before the performance explaining how is son had fallen into the river playing football that afternoon and thus couldn’t make that performance and explaining in minute detail how exactly the raffle was going to work that night.
And we all just sat there as if it was the most normal thing in the world.
Sometimes I feels that as a nation we haven’t progressed beyond watching cricket on a summer afternoon before retiring for tea and scones. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing.
The show itself was good, nothing spectacular but worth the night out. The performers had realised the key element of performing Gilbert & Sullivan – namely that it is vitally important that you are able to hear every word clearly so that you don’ miss the jokes. The only complaint was that the show seemed to be floundering to find a time period – the chorus was dressed in pinstripes circa the turn of the twentieth century, Yum-yum was in typical anime school girl attire and Nanki-Poo seemed to be dressed as Buttons, I just wish it had chosen a single theme or time period and stuck with it.
I do however recommend the festival to anyone who wants to experience English eccentricity at its fullest – apparently they all retired to a bar afterwards to perform cabaret, but time prevented us from experiencing just how surreal an experience this would gave been.