Plymouth Gilbert and Sullivan have expanded their repertoire with ‘Chess’, by lyricist Tim Rice, music by Benny Anderson and Björn Ulvaeus.
The show tells the story of rivalry between chess players. The first chess championship takes place in Merano, Italy where the Mayor (Kevin Bennett) and ensemble sing to welcome the chess players. The song, ‘Merano’ showcases the cast’s Gilbert and Sullivan routes with rhythmic, wordy passages and bright, traditional costumes.
In contrast to this scene, the costumes and stage often consisted of monochrome colours with a hint of red creating a chess metaphor within the story. The characters tried to make strategic moves as if playing a game of chess. The staging reinforced this idea, with a chessboard filling the centre of the stage. This was placed at a slightly upright angle making for an unusual but effective use of the space. The actors and actresses looked as if they had always performed at this peculiar angle and interacted well with the props and setting.
All the principals played strong parts with the two female leads bringing a new level of emotion to the stage. Svetlana (Anna Dunford) and Florence (Helen Havliand) both suffer at the hand of love, singing ‘I know him so well’. These characters share a closeness, having had the same experience. This came through in the song as their voices blended and harmonised.
Prior to this, Svetlana captivatingly sings ‘Someone else’s story’. She is left alone on the stage to pour out her heart in this beautiful song.
Who knew so many emotions could be felt about the game and story of Chess. A strong cast, an intriguing set and powerful music.