It’s always good to start a day at the Fringe with a stylish slant on an old favourite, and that was certainly the case with The Fringe Lozenge from Coily Dart. As G & S fans will know – and there were plenty of them in the audience – Gilbert consistently failed to persuade his musical partner to set his lozenge story to music. This company have come to the rescue however, and after an interlude in which the two great men go over their argument for the benefit of anyone not aware, we see the story portrayed, updated to the present-day Fringe and using music written by Sullivan for the other operas.
This was my second Fringe musical in two days in which the setting was moved to the present-day Fringe, and it worked just as well here. With piano accompaniment from Becky Norton, a cast of 6 played and sang all the parts, with new lyrics of considerable invention but written it seems by them all jointly – in which case, they have cracked the code of how to write in unison, for these lyrics were both Gilbertian (even mentioning a second trombone) and witty (I did enjoy the visit to the Pooh Bar).
Norman Hockley and Chris Higgins had a brief scene as Gilbert & Sullivan but were then relegated to the corner as a kind of sitting all-purpose chorus. To all intents and purposes, the cast was four-strong and they coped well with what was required of them. Sofia Aguiar and Eilidh Gibson played a variety of performers at the Fringe as well as the occasional air hostess or citizen. Elizabeth Fenner played a couple of male roles and sang beautifully, while Daniel Grooms showed his versatility as all the other male roles as well as giving a lesson in how to attack a Gilbertian patter song.
Under the sure hand of Director Sue Ellerby, this was an inventive and enjoyable romp, and well-staged with the occasional prop or costume to suggest character and with these stowed in boxes when not in use – the kind of attention to detail often forgotten at the Fringe. A shame there wasn’t a programme, however skimpy, however; I was able to obtain a Press Release but I do think audiences should know the names of those performing and something about the group. This was my first performance this year without a short programme.
Were Arthur Sullivan to emerge in ghostly presence at a future performance, like one of the portraits in Ruddigore, perhaps he would think again about that dreaded lozenge plot of Gilbert’s… And I promise this review has not been misattributed like the one that went astray in The Fringe Lozenge.