Theatre, West End
4 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(6user reviews)
 (© John Haynes)
© John Haynes
 (© John Haynes)
© John Haynes
 (© John Haynes)
© John Haynes
 (© John Haynes)
© John Haynes
 (© John Haynes)
© John Haynes

The sublime and the ridiculous joyfully unite in this new work by Samuel Adamson, which is part 'Carry on the Glorious Revolution', part ravishing tribute to Henry Purcell. The accession of William and Mary was celebrated in England as a triumph of Protestant rationality, yet here it's the richly bawdy variety of their reign that comes to the fore.

Perhaps that's no surprise, given that the unifying theme of the evening is the trumpet, an instrument that – as a member of the horn family – is as much a source of suggestive wit as it is of celestially beautiful music. Adamson has devised 'Gabriel' – which he describes as 'an entertainment' – together with prodigiously talented trumpeter Alison Balsom, and the result is a treat for the eyes and ears.

We meet a wide range of individuals in brief playlets that lace together to form a secret history of the 1690s. There’s the tragic, young, toy-soldier-obsessed, Duke of Gloucester, condemned to the life of an invalid by ‘water on the brain’, who loves the trumpet for its bellicose qualities. There's Sam Cox’s garrulous waterman – clear ancestor to the London cab driver – who's 'had that Henry Purcell in my boat', and tells tall stories of King Charles’ healing abilities.

The evening’s heart lies in the story of 'Cold Arabella' – played with wonderful dignity by Jessie Buckley – a lesbian soprano forced to conceal her sexuality while fighting off the court lechers. Buckley evokes the fraught humour of her situation, at the same time as performing Purcell with soulful panache. There’s also an enjoyably tangled love story that evokes 'The Faerie Queen'. True to Adamson's tongue-in-orifice style, it includes a scene that pays a startlingly direct tribute to the oral tradition.

Director Dominic Dromgoole proves a consummate lord of misrule, whisking the audience through Adamson's irreverent fragments so that they form a joyous whole. Thanks to the talents of Balsom and 'The English Concert' we are never allowed to forget that Purcell is the true star here: visually absent, but constantly proof that music is not just the food of love but also balm for the soul.

By Rachel Halliburton


Average User Rating

3.8 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:1
1 person listening

The production felt a little self-indulgent and an opportunity for Alison Balsom to blow her own trumpet - which however was very good. Otherwise, the dialogue was often inaudible from the sides which meant the production was difficult to follow and they missed opportunity to engage the audience. The funniest joke was one borrowed from 'Shakespeare in Love'. The second half may have been better, but while some were overheard at the interval discussing whether they would stay 'till the bitter end', we did not.

Purcells' sublime music, beautifully played, combines exquisitely with the often bawdy but always entertaining series of late restoration sketches. This works because of the classy musicians and actors,and many of the latter appear to have revelled in leaping forward in time from Shakespeare's Tempest to the 1690s. Alison Balsom gives a fantastic performance on the natural trumpet, as well as blending in really well with the professional actors (not always an easy job). And Jessie Buckley builds on her engaging performance as Miranda in the Tempest with some gorgeous singing and adds great humour as well as dignity to her various parts. Sam Cox brings his ready period wit to his role as Thames waterman/Restoration taxi driver - his warning to his boat passengers to "mind the gap" when embarking almost brought the house down. Sam Adamson has concocted a wonderfully joyous musical entertainment which is performed with enormous skill and wit in the most appropriate theatre - The Globe! Catch it if you can....

A wonderfully creative and novel combination of bawdy live theatre that draws in the audience, makes stories of the past live in the present, and an original and joy-full way of presenting historic music and instruments and those who play them - the best of the traditions of instrumental music, singing and theatrical drama.

A truly memorable experience. Music that was sweet and moving, story vignette's, some funny, some with a truth some that moved. An audience at times so quiet, so enraptured that a pin dropping could be heard, Voices and song so divine as to make you weep. I will never forget it, 5 stars in not enough

I thought Gabriel was amazing! Exactly what the Globe should be - funny, experiemental, and a bit crackers!

Not that good .. sorry 10/10 for effort but confusing , disjointed, unclear of direction. Many , many left in the interval not to return , I was amongst them, so it might have improved , but I doubt it