Los Ladrones: “The Spectre Knight” by Alfred Cellier at St Faith’s, Havant

Los Ladrones, The Spectre Knight, St. Faith’s, Havant, Apr 12

It’s said a change is as good as a rest and so while the local cathedrals were taking a rest from lunchtime recitals, St. Faith’s provided some light operetta for a change.

The Spectre Knight by James Albery and Alfred Cellier centres on Viola, daughter of the Grand Duke whose court has been banished to live in a haunted glen. Her cousin, Otho, shows up, disguises himself as a ghost and they all live happily ever after. Held together by Marion Porter’s narration and Nigel Smith’s spritely piano, Jane Marett was a lively soprano Viola and John Butt a comic Otho and ghost. Michael Powell as the Duke, Simon Cooksey as his Lord Chamberlain and Irene Cooksey as the mezzo Lady in Waiting were support roles in comparison but contributed with distinction to several ensemble pieces.

I am free, I am free, for my labour is done was an early outing for Jane’s soprano excursions before John’s I only mix with ghosts well known involved some rudimentary, low-budget sound and visual effects that augmented the Corinthian spirit of local amateur dramatics and period piece entertainment. I’ll take forty-five minutes of such Victorian parlour amusement over hours of Wagner’s Ring cycle every time.

Ensemble pieces like Fill up, and let us drink to one another followed by Too-whit, too-whoo, too-whoo, too-whit were convivial frolics before none of the audience would have been too taken aback by the highly satisfactory five-part denouement that returned to the booze by way of celebration.

Perhaps lunchtime operetta has a future. This was well-supported although, like any such thing, friends and family could have been a significant part of the numbers but it’s a fine thing that this repertoire and tradition is being kept vibrantly alive by Los Ladrones. It seems quaint to me and I’m not as young as I was, my acquaintance with G&S being largely a credit to my parents.

It is to be hoped that such gentle wit and theatrical unlikeliness can be preserved a while longer yet. I had to look up a translation of ‘los ladrones’. It means ‘thieves’. Surely not. Custodians, more like.  

David Green

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