Morpheus Theatre looks at Gilbert and Sullivan’s lesser known work

By Olivia Brooks

All you need is a good sense of humour according to Tim Elliott, the producer of Morpheus Theatre Company, to appreciate their production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s opera Patience. The musical, directed by Richard Michelle-Pentelbury, satirizes the aesthetic movement of the time while telling the story of two rival poets fighting for the love and adoration of Patience (Naomi Williams-Covey), the local milkmaid. Even though Patience was the second longest-running musical in its time, it is now one of the lesser-known musicals in the Gilbert and Sullivan canon. However, do not expect anything less than a night brimming with tomfoolery, young maidens, aesthetics and military suitors.

“[Patience is] when your wishes are granted,” says Elliott.

Reginald Bunthorne (Michael Johnson), the “fleshy poet,” is lusting after Patience who eventually caves to Bunthorne’s wiles, but only because it is her duty. However, Bunthorne soon learns that being married to the village milkmaid has not made him as happy as he thought and he yearns for the worship of the 20 lovesick maidens who used to flock to him. Like any good comedic opera, Patience has its intrigues but closes with a happy ending. Originally the role of Bunthorne was Gilbert and Sullivan poking fun at Oscar Wilde who was, as Elliott describes, “the poster boy” for the aesthetic movement.

“[The] aesthetic movement is similar to what the hippie movement was in the ’60s or the next-gen in the ’90s,” he says. “It was the young people rebelling against their elders. It still does speak to the modern times.”

Those who are familiar with Wilde are sure to get a laugh from Bunthorne’s wild attire and songs about “the aesthetic line,” but Elliott also hopes that even those who are not familiar with Wilde will still get a laugh out of Bunthorne’s character.

Every season Morpheus Theatre produces at least one Gilbert and Suillivan musical, whether it is one of their more commonly known ones such as Mikado or Pirates of Penzance or their lesser-known operas such as The Gondoliers or Iolanthe.

“One of the things Morpheus as a society would like to do is to do as many of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas as we can,” Elliot says. “We would like to have people whistling the arrays from Patience and humming the tunes from Iolanthe as they do the other ones [Mikado, Pirates, H.M.S. Pinafore].”

Even with the looming recession, Morpheus Theatre’s Patience is still persevering with ticket sales matching previous years. Traditionally, musicals bring in the larger crowds, but the extra appeal that Patience offers its audience is entertainment at a low price.

“You can go and spend $135 to go and see the Lion King and it’s a spectacular show, but put that up against something like $20 to see Patience,” Elliott notes.

Even though Patience is community theatre, which generally gets a bad reputation as “low quality” theatre, Elliott says that stigma needs to be quelled.

“The talent that goes on stage, the actors, the singers, the chorus, we can probably stand up to almost anybody in professional theatre,” he says. “That’s going to help us in the recession, the value you get for your money.”

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