LOpSoc’s latest offering takes the form of Noel Coward’s 1929 operetta Bitter Sweet, the rollercoaster life story of Sarah Millick, Marchioness of Shayne. As the title suggests, the production is one of mixed emotions – mercilessly funny one-liners co-exist alongside tender and poignant moments. Although it suffered from a slightly tentative opening, once the performance was underway it seemed to move from strength to strength which each successive act better than the one which preceded it.
The operetta featured many strong individual performances and it would be remiss of me to not give honourable mention to Chris Ball, Sophie Grout, Emma Jeffery, Sarah Jones, Phill Moxley and Becky Thomas. All of these cast members went the extra mile to satisfy the audience giving sterling and memorable performances.
For me, however, there is no doubt that the evening was completely dominated by the performances of Kirsty March and Ruth Thomlinson. Beautiful vocals combined with genuine and emotive acting allowed for a poignant connection between these actresses and their audience, something which, if it continues for the rest of the run, is sure to impress.
The show was also technically very well executed. An effective use of lighting accentuated the performance and a great deal of thought had clearly gone in to set design. The set used for the second act was a definite favourite for me and showed an excellent use of space by director James Rosser and assistant director Isabel Corlett. The standard of performance and timing of the orchestra under musical director Keziah Jacombs perfectly captured the changing emotions of Coward’s work.
My only slight criticism in the technical regard would be the make-up which was not always as well executed as the show deserved – an example of this being the distracting women’s make up left on the face of Richard Patient when he swapped from playing Lady Devon to an officer in the second act in spite of the interval in which this could have been rectified.
Isabel Corlett spoke to me about the scale of the undertaking for LOpSoc who generally tend to work with smaller casts performing lighter works (in particular, those of Gilbert and Sullivan). She described the ‘mammoth effort on behalf of the cast’ and titled the opening night’s performance as ‘a testament to everyone involved’. Having been lucky enough to attend this performance, I can only agree. LOpSoc should be justly proud of what they have achieved.
Bitter Sweet is running nightly until Saturday 25th February 2012 at The Annex, Highfield Campus. Tickets can be booked from the SUSU box office.