Saturday, 24 March 2012



7.18pm on Tuesday 6th March. A group of ladies in colourful Grecian dress are nervously chattering behind the curtain, but trouble is afoot. A Love Sick Maiden has gone missing and the Stage Manager is doing all she can to locate her. After much panicking and flapping from the other Maidens and several calls to backstage from the DSM, Saphir is finally located; she was stage left talking to the Assistant Stage Manager. At 7.19 Musical Director Charlie Hughes picks up his baton and the orchestra strikes up. The EUGnS 2012 Northcott Theatre Production finally begins.  

Patience began life in June 2011 when the EUGnS Committee for 2011/12 decided it was to be our March Production. The aesthetic Maidens and Dragoon Guards contrasted well with last year’s Venetian Gondoliers and Spanish Aristocracy. The Director, Dettie Ellerby, Musical Director, Charlie Hughes and Production Team were appointed and planning commenced.

When term began in September the Choreographer, Sheena Drainer was appointed and auditions began for Patience and Trial by Jury. This year was the first time the society has ever attempted two shows in one academic year, which meant double the learning for the cast. Much of term one was dominated by rehearsals for Trial by Jury, but our rehearsal away weekend in Dulverton saw musical progress for Patience. After Trial by Jury, rehearsals for Patience were increased dramatically and the cast went into harmony overdrive making sure that all parts were thoroughly learnt. The Dragoon Guards spent hours in rehearsals perfecting their choreography whilst the female chorus spent one rehearsal learning plies and courus, causing much hilarity from the less balletic maidens. 

In the mean time sets and costumes were chosen, measurements taken and props ordered. A rather lengthy meeting was spent debating exactly how many centimetres the quills needed to be, and whether a daffodil might not be more aesthetic than a baguette? Stage Manager and Deputy Stage Managers were recruited, as well as Follow Spot operators and Make-up artists. 

In February a brilliant afternoon out was organised by Publicity Officer, Rebecca Ryan. The Principals set out to Taveners Farm and learnt how to milk a cow. Whilst reluctant at first, Patience (Becky Brown) soon got into her stride and one of the Dragoon Guards (Jolyon Drew) managed to procure enough milk for a cup of tea (albeit one that was rather strong). 

But March soon arrived and at 5pm on Monday 5th the Cast, Crew and Orchestra all assembled in the Northcott Theatre for briefings before hastily taking our places for the technical run. The run went smoothly and many cast commented it was the quickest tech run they could remember. Tuesday afternoon bought the Dress Rehearsal and all were very excited backstage at the prospect of performing, but it was a nervous cast who arrived for warm up before the evening performance.

We needn’t have worried, the first night went off without a hitch and Patience was very well received by the audience. The performances got better and better throughout the week and by Saturday Night, helped by a fantastic audience, we performed one of the best shows in recent years! 

EUGnS would like to thank all the cast, orchestra, and crew, as well as everyone who came and supported the show. We could not have done it without you. 

Praise for Patience

“We were absolutely blown away by your production of Patience. We expected a great show, as in past years, but our expectations were far exceeded. Taking on two shows in one year was a big thing. Other universities do it and fail but it is remarkable that you have achieved two high quality productions this year which were equally well cast. Trial by Jury was great, especially given the marvellous setting, and you overcame the logistical drawbacks admirably.” 

“The characterisations of all the principals were superb from Patience's accent and wonderfully innocent delivery to your marvellous Bunthorne whose performance was both subtle and clearly delivered...Several seasoned G&S bods in the audience agreed he was the best Bunthorne they'd seen in the best production. Grosvenor was just gorgeous from his fine singing to fine strutting, his duet with Patience was yummy and his duet with Bunthorne lacked nothing. I've never heard The Magnet and the Churn sung better. It's lovely to hear voices develop over the years and Lady Angela sang beautifully, showing that her voice is going to take her far. Her duet with Patience is difficult to bring off but it was neatly done. Patience's songs, though they look simple, are two of the hardest in Sullivan to bring off, the first can sound squeaky and the second morbid. Neither posed no such problems for Becky. The soldiers were hilarious and well drilled, the Colonel coping admirably with the footstamping... Hilarious trio from the three men - well done! Lady Jane gave us a fabulous performance of her song on Saturday - I hope that cello wasn't valuable!”

“Well done Charles [MD] for fielding a fine orchestra. They played wonderfully, never too loud and gave some great colour to the evening. You managed to stop the audience talking during the overture both nights I was there and that's quite a result! The chorus was consistently brilliant throughout, the sound the girls made being particularly thrilling. Their facial expressions when told to think of nothing were great!”

“Wanted to say, again, how brilliant you all were last night! ... Everyone was on top form and I especially loved the lovesick maidens...
you should all be massively proud of yourselves!” 

“Patience was AMAZING! Well done to those involved!” 

“Massive well done to EUGnS for Patience! What a show!

Massive congrats to everyone involved with EUGnS  and Patience what a great show! Good to see the return of a West Country lead after last year's Italian affair”

“I thought PATIENCE was brilliant - well done to everyone involved!”

"Fab night at Exeter Northcott seeing EUGnS doing Patience. Got a front row seat and tried to sing along!”

" I drove home singing 'Sing hey to you, good day to you' at the top of my voice”

“Brilliant show, I would have gone to see it every night if I lived in Exeter.” 

“The whole show was played with great confidence and hilarity which translated into an enthusiasm the audience couldn’t help but catch on to” Review in Expose 

“From the moment the curtain went up there was laughter and the audience did not let up... The story of Patience the milkmaid and her experiences of love was straightforward enough, but nothing could prepare me for three renditions of 'Twenty love-sick maidens we' where I hope it was part of the joke that there were never actually quite twenty of them. With Bethany Lyne as Lady Angela, Tess Dowdeswell as Lady Saphir and Rosie Archer as Lady Ella heading up the group of maidens, they led the way through a range of songs that had some of the funniest facial expressions I've seen on stage.

The movement of both male and female chorus were such that I couldn't help but wonder how they had the discipline in rehearsal to bring it to this standard, no doubt they are all trying not to look at each other through fear somebody will laugh. There's something comforting that even at the end of a run, they still look like they're having fun.

Jonathan Wood as Bunthorne had a great line in deadpan humour that seemed delightfully unaware against Andrew Henley as Grosvenor, who was so self-aware that there was one double take to the audience that watched laugh build on laugh as both men played the crowd in different ways.

For the ladies, there was Rebekah Brown in the title role who mixed a beautiful vocal in song against a wonderful country bumpkin speaking voice to deliver a strong central performance. Alice Massey as Lady Jane was given some of the best material thanks to 'Sad is that woman's lot' being accompanied by her cello with great humour, then later with 'So go to him and say to him'.

My favourite song of the night was 'It's clear that mediaeval art' with Harry Boyd, Rowan Brearley and Ishan Pankhania as Duke, Major and Colonel. Through the course of this one scene these three chaps pulled off a range of amusing positions with only a quill, a flower and each other for support, as the soldiers became poets to the best of their ability.

I'm also now feeling slightly spoiled by the live music at these productions, with a splendid orchestra leading the way here. I understand I've been listening to the trumpet of Tim Spicer across consecutive Saturdays but in very contrasting shows - and a scamper through the programme reveals the Gilbert and Sullivan lovers are from a mixture of disciplines across the University, what a wealth of talent on display. “ Review, Jolyon Tuck

All pictures copyright Thomas A J Smith, 2012

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