2013 – The Grand Duke

NODA Report

MD: Ken Mathews Directors: Keith Armitage & Peter Shreyhane

Based on the premise of deposing the current miserly Grand Duke, and replacing him with a usurper who would inherit all duties (including it seemed four separate Grand Duchesses) in this the last of the collaborations between the Gilbert and Sullivan. This was a convoluted plot even by their standards. I understand that this operetta is not performed too often (indeed this is the first time St. Andrew’s have performed this work). The many principal roles and high standard of singing required may deter many societies, added to the fact it is a long piece. That said, this society ‘nailed it’ – there was humour, there was pathos and there was a plot that gave your brain a work-out as vigorously as a Mensa examination.

Ken Mathews, once again with full 17 piece orchestra, played through the difficult score in a manner that supported the players rather than dominated them. It would require much more space than available to mention each named principal role, but it would be wrong not to mention the work and effort played by each and every one to bring this piece to stage, as well as the superb chorus. Deserving of special praise must be Rory Oliver (Ludwig) as the usurper with the fine bass voice and expressive facial reactions, Bernie Trotter (Lisa) as his true love, Philip Hall (Ernest) as the leader of a travelling operatic group, Kayleigh Oliver (Julia) as Ernest’s leading lady and would-be wife, Richard Straw (Rudolph – the Grand Duke) whose fine voice and acting matched Elizabeth Hamer (The Princess of Monte Carlo) to whom he was betrothed in childhood. Simon McLoughlin (The Prince of Monte Carlo), the penniless prince who can afford a dowry for his daughter by inventing Roulette to make his fortune, ended up with Baroness von Krakenfeldt played in superb form by the talented Kathy Price – nice to see her back at St.Andrew’s after a two year stint at the Birmingham Conservatoire of Music. Sorting out the intricacies of the legal aspects was Paul Blakey as Dr Tannhauser.

Costumes by Alan Graham of Consett looked the part and enhanced the production, A whole new realistic set appeared between Act 2 and 3 and the crew are to be commended for their efforts as are NEATT for the lighting effects. Once again with this society each word heard and not a microphone in sight – the power of the ‘projected voice’ – a dying art – Well Done St.Andrew’s for a splendid production – looking forward to HMS Pinafore.


Phillip Cunningham has kindly given us permission to post his photographs of the production. You’ll find them here (opens in new tab).