Jermyn Street Theatre is a tiny space. And when we say tiny, we mean tiny. We’d guess at 80-100 seats. And if you’re over 5ft 10, you can forget about leg room for the evening. Luckily, Opera on the Run’s delightfully light-hearted show, The Perfect Picnic should be more than enough to divert your ears and eyes away from any cramp forming in your legs.
Recently-redundant David doesn’t want to go the opera; he’s not even sure how tickets appeared in his jacket pocket. His long-suffering girlfriend Sarah is anxious to attend, but gutted about arriving in a borrowed car. It transpires that David’s ex-wife and rising opera star, Rachael, is performing at the Opera Gala. When Rachael’s new boyfriend, flamboyant celebrity designer Michael de Haughton-Tours, lays eyes on Sarah, his attention immediately transfers from the stage to the stalls.
It’s during the interval, however, that events unfold with more drama than the opera itself.
Set to musical extracts from Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute, The Perfect Picnic will transport you from a cold, dark (in our case, rainy) Jermyn Street to a lovely summer’s evening of great outdoor entertainment.
The light libretto covers all the important, timeless operatic themes of love, wine, the love of wine, but also touches on quirky modern references; the importance of knowing the Heimlich manoeuvre, the disappointment of arriving at the opera in a G-reg Sierra, the worry of sounding like Sarah Brightman on your opening night. And then there’s the consideration of how a girl should act when a singing frog advises her to listen to her conscience.
The high calibre cast hit just the right notes. Cheryl Enever as Rachael has a lovely quality to her voice; she is well-balanced by great comic acting from Lynn Marie Boudreau as Sarah. Ian Bloomfield and Tim Armstrong-Taylor are well-matched in voice and character too, producing most of the laugh-out-loud moments. As well as playing the love interests for the two girls, these two have written the libretto and directed the piece.
Orchestrating the activity on stage is Clare Kinson’s Puck: a bizarre mixture of cheeky, controlling, wordless emo teen straight from Camden High Street, and Acorn Antique’s Mrs Overall. There was more than a hint of a gurning Julie Walters about her. Does it work? Yes, perhaps because her stage-time was restricted while still being a significant counterpoint to ‘explain’ away the otherwise irrational behaviour of the lovers.
If you’re looking for a couple of hours’ humorous, light, effortless, playful, piano-and-voice-based entertainment, this would be a great place to start. And if, like many people, your New Year’s resolution is to ‘get out more’ and see more things, we can certainly recommend heading to a fringe venue like this studio theatre. Listen to that singing frog.
By Zoe Griffiths
The Perfect Picnic by Ian Bloomfield and Tim Armstrong-Taylor at the Jermyn Street Theatre, on now until 2 February. Tickets and info here.