THERE can’t be many amateur operatic companies who can call upon one of their number to create new shows when they have exhausted the usual repertoire, but Milborne Port Opera has the ingenious Neil Edwards.
This year’s production, Spring Fate, on stage at the village hall until Saturday 11th April, is the third show that Neil has crafted, using music from the Gilbert and Sullivan era and adding witty songs and funny, barmy plotting.
It’s a sort of sequel to his Lost Continent and The Murder at Shakerly House, and reprieves some of the favourite characters. Set on the day of the village fete, George, Earl Fairbank, recently acceded to the title, and his new wife Nancy welcome their guests to Anderton Hall, the house that is now their home.
But as well as welcome guests Uncle William and his entourage of daffy explorers, there are some shifty newcomers to the village festivities.
A week before the fete, a cabinet minister stayed at Anderton Hall, where he stowed vital secret plans and papers in the library. Then he got himself shot.
Perhaps predictably, those papers prove a powerful magnet for German, French and American spies, all vying for a way to steal them from the patriotic British aristocracy and their chums.
Fortunately George’s redoubtable mother, allegedly vacationing in Venice, has outwitted them all … but to tell you how would be to spoil the fun.
Neil Edwards not only wrote the libretto and the book, but also directed in a charmingly old fashioned way, and Caroline D’Cruz again leads the excellent band in playing the evocative music by Ivan Caryll.
There are fine performances, as always at MPO, notably here by Lloyd Davies as a hilarious German (and Richard Gaunt as his Austrian counterpart), Matthew Baker as the sardonic Uncle William and Jessie Stones as his dominating wife, Stuart Waite as adventurer Capt Walkden, Alison Ruddy as the Parisian vamp and Sarah Bignell as the fortune teller.
Neil has included enough big chorus numbers to keep both the company and the audience happy, and the whole thing is suffused by a Downtownesque spirit of rural England meets derring-do.
All great fun and another feather in the MPO’s hat!
Photograph by Andrew Lakeman