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Bluebeard's armed retinue, with which he threatens King Bobeche, becomes a cohort of security men, including four dancers in skimpy sub-aqua gear and flippers. These latter become one of the funniest things in the show as choreographer Will Tuckett creates wonderful havoc by doing choreographed tap-dance routines and a sub-aquatic ballet for the flipper-clad dancers.

Stephen Langridge does not over press the Bond theme and ensures that the remainder of the plot is firmly in place; no attempt is made to present King Bobeche's court as anything but the awful, self-serving Royal Court that Offenbach depicts. This results in an updating which actually seems to work, the operetta gained an interesting modern slant without overly hijacking the plot to suit the director's whims. All credit to Stephen Langridge for exercising restraint in this respect.

Not that the production was restrained. In George Souglides' designs it was a riot of references: Bluebeard's castle as an underwater Bond lair, the chorus as 1950s American girls, King Bobeche as a huge blob straight out of a Rowlandson cartoon.

In the title role, Philip Langridge remains remarkably ageless, both in figure and in voice. Having heard him recently in heavier roles I was slightly concerned about how he could perform Offenbach's lines. I needn't have worried, his vibrato was well under control and his performance was musically very stylish. He had just the right amount of suaveness to bring the role off without too much ham; he also had a nice line in comic timing.

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Copyright © 9 June 2008 Robert Hugill, London UK


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