Rating – *****
Though Patience first opened in 1881, the fundamental storyline of a young girl learning about love, whilst two eligible bachelors fight over her heart isn’t exactly alien to modern cultures.
In fact it’s the type of plot you can find in many cheap rom-com films in the 21st Century. So for this production of Patience at London’s intimate Union Theatre, the game needed to be changed, and director Sasha Regan has not only changed the game, but rewritten the rule book.
Patience is Sasha Regan’s third Gilbert and Sullivan operetta with an all male cast, and yet again it works a charm. One gets the impression that, had the cast have been mixed gender, the female characters would have seemed incredibly dated, one dimensional and pathetic in comparison with their male counterparts. Yet the manipulation of gender roles within this production adds an element of humour without ever reaching pantomime territory. It is done with complete integrity and is as subtle as a man can be dressing as a woman.
The casting is simply sensational. Stiofan O’Doherty as Archibald, the handsome rival poet is the perfect match for the unimpressionable milkmaid Patience, portrayed perfectly by Edward Charles Bernstone. These two incredible actors took a classic, though admittedly dated take on a love triangle and turned it into something fresh.
Of the ensemble, nobody seemed more immersed in their role than William Whelton; even when out of the audiences view I spotted him still giving double the performance than you get from lead actors in lesser productions.
Jarred Page, who impressed in a previous production at the Union Theatre, remained as intriguing. It’s surely time for him now to step up to the lead roles. Page and Whelton are definitely two to keep tabs on.
Choreography is pulled off with such ease. Whilst never too complex, the way the cast move around a frankly small space is quite the spectacle.
But the biggest treat for your senses during Patience has to be the vocals. Some of the boys hit notes so high they put Mariah Carey and her whistle notes to shame.
Besides the insanely talented leads, notable singing came from Oliver Meakings, Sean Quigley and Gareth Andrews.
Patience is an almost flawless production which makes such an old script extremely accessible for all audiences – go and see it now, before the current run ends!
Patience runs at the Union Theatre, Southwark until 10 March.