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  • Writer's pictureSarah

All Aboard Charles Court Opera's "The Express G&S" at Wilton's Music Hall

I find it almost impossible to refuse an opportunity to review a show at Wilton's Music Hall, which is the oldest surviving musical hall in the world. Even on a warm summer evening, it's an incredibly atmospheric place with some of the nicest front of house staff around.

I'm the first to admit that I'm no opera buff, but I grew up with my grandma and mum singing excerpts from Gilbert and Sullivan Operettas, and consequently I'm pretty familiar with many of the most popular songs. This made the idea of a condensed evening of G&S from Charles Court Opera, delivered non-stop for 75 minutes, very appealing.

This production plays with the concept, a bit like a 'Reduced Shakespeare', of delivering an alternative condensed story line to the originals. John Savournin and David Eaton could see nothing better than crossing G&S with an Agatha Christie train-based mystery, and the rather playful and silly result became 'The Express G&S'.

This Charles Court Opera contains moments from all the published works produced by Gilbert and Sullivan, many obvious (even to me), and some much more subtle for the aficionados leaving them to do the detective work and find the references that may fly past in a line. The couple sitting next to me certainly fell into that category, they could barely contain their glee at the references.

Seated man with raised tea-cup, standing woman dressed as a waitress with a tea trolley, second seated man with raised tea cup
The cast of Express G&S. Photo credit Bill Knight

Instead of Belgium Hercule Poirot, we have Detective Phillipe Pierrot, played with knowing wit by Matthew Kellet, aboard the express train. He's not on duty, but ready to investigate the mystery of the 'doily cart' when it happens. All of the other characters are played by the expressive Catrine Kirkman and funny Matthew Siveter. Catrine stole nearly every scene she was in as 'Bridget the trolley lady' mourning for the loss of her doily cart and assisting with the who dunnit.

The plot is silly, and intended to be so, this is designed to be the kind of light entertainment that Victorians would have loved. The acting and singing from all three of the cast is accomplished, and the plot (such as it is) moves along at a cracking pace, with many laughs along the way. Even if you're not a G&S aficionado, there's a lot of enjoyment to be had from the new lyrics to the old tunes, and the well timed comedy from all of the cast.

Please note that due to the age of the music hall there is no air-con, and it can get pretty warm in the summer.

When: 15th to 18th August 2023

Box Office: 020 7702 2789

Where: Wilton’s Music Hall

1 Graces Alley, London E1 8JB

Followed by the Mikado

19 - 23 September

Arcola Theatre

24 Ashwin St, London E8 3DL

Box office:


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