Venetian favourite for EdGAS

Mar 7 2016 | By More

Late G&S favourite floats into town

It’s all G&S and Gondoliers at the King’s this week as the Edinburgh Gilbert and Sullivan Society returns with an old favourite of the Savoy Opera repertoire.

And unlike last year’s Gondoliers from Eusog, this one promises to stick to the scenario as Gilbert envisioned it. Well, up to a point: director Alan Borthwick revealed to Æ that he has a few tricks up his sleeve.

Fiona Main and Ian Lawson as the Duchess and Duke of Plaza-Toro. Photo Greg Macvean

Fiona Main and Ian Lawson as the Duchess and Duke of Plaza-Toro. Photo Greg Macvean

Those aside, as the company’s Erika Ishimaru says, EdGAS like to play it traditional, leaving the nippy changes to younger companies while they get on with the business of filling the King’s.

“We focus on production values,” Ishimaru told Æ. “Beautiful costumes, playing it straight and getting it sounding beautiful.

“There is a lot of emphasis on musical qualities, harmonies, that kind of thing, so there is showmanship – but we like to think we do Gilbert and Sullivan proud!”

While the company boasts a solid chorus of over 50 voices, the named roles will be taken by a mix of familiar and new faces.

Regular patter merchant Ian Lawson will be taking the role of the Duke Plaza-Toro, the penniless Spanish grandee, who turns up in Venice to hunt for the prince of Bratislava who was hustled off as an infant to save his life and hidden with a family of gondoliers.

company mascot

Playing his wife the Duchess of Plaza-Toro will be Fiona Main, who less than a year ago was performing in the Dunfermline G&S production, singing the role of Casilda, the Duke and Duchesses daughter who they claim was betrothed to the infant prince before he was taken away.

That role will be taken by Sarah Whitty who, herself, has just become a mother. Young Flora will be just over a month old when the production opens on Tuesday night and is already something of a company mascot as Sarah’s husband Farlane is also in the show, ensuring that she is a regular at rehearsals.

The twist in The Gondoliers plot is driven by the notion that the infant prince was mixed up by the drunken gondolier who took him in with his own son and they were brought up as brothers, with no-one except the prince’s nurse being able to tell them apart. Michael McFarlane and Geoff Lee will take on the roles of Marco and Guiseppe Palmieri.

One fabulous voice missing from this year’s production will be that of Gillian Robertson, who is taking a wee break this year according to Ishimaru. She says the company have used the opportunity to bring in a new voice in the form of Anna Thomson, who will be singing Gianetta, one of the two Venetian girls who the brothers marry at the outset of the show.

increasingly impressive

Annabel Hamid, who has been increasingly impressive for the company will be singing the other Venetian girl, Tessa.

This will be the third time that Alan Borthwick has directed The Gondoliers. “It was written very near the end of Gilbert and Sullivan’s collaboration and it is a really bright, cheerful joyful thing,” he told Æ, adding that the EdGAS’s chorus of over 50 boasts 24 male voices, more than any other local company.

He added: “Its not the same as it always is, we have got some modern illusions in it, some people will object to that, but we are traditional in our main approach. I love G&S that way, but we do have some modern things including one number completely rewritten. Before I say any more they just have to come and see the show!”

Ian Lawson, who has become known for his performance in the patter roles of Gilbert and Sullivan, goes one better than Borthwick and will be singing the Duke for the fourth time.

“Over 30 years ago I played the Duke of Plaza-Toro,” he told Æ. “Christopher Cotter who plays his attendant Luiz in the production this time round, he was actually being born on the last day of that performance, in May 1980.

“This production is great,” Lawson adds. “The music is fantastic. I think Sullivan said that there were more notes in Gondoliers than in Wagner’s Parsifal, but then Parsifal is terribly slow.”

And slow, is one thing which you can never accuse Lawson of being.


The Gondoliers
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ
Tuesday 8 – Saturday 12 March 2016
Evenings: 7.30pm; Matinee Sat: 2.30pm
Expected running time: 2 hours 45 minutes approx.
Tickets and details from

EdGAS website:
EdGAS on Facebook: EdinburghGilbertSullivan


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