It's also the case that neither work is really particularly overwhelming. A Dinner Engagement (1954) is a jolly but highly mannered domestic farce, an Ealing Comedy set in a kitchen. Self-conscious stylistic ideas creep in to try and froth up the text and for all the crisp lyricism in the melody there isn't really call for either bel canto proper (pace Prince Phillipe's moments of pastiche) or quite the thematic distinction that one associates with Berkeley's contemporary Benjamin Britten (on whose own social comedy of seven years earlier, Albert Herring, Berkeley cannot have helped to have drawn in some way - I certainly heard some of this is in the ensemble stretches).
Both shows used the same production team, clearly a hand-in-glove outfit where Gregor Donnelly's sets stretch out diagonally from a rear wing to the front of the stage on the opposite side and are lit (specifically in the Martinu) with musical precision by Jerome Douglas. The design also assists director Stuart Barker in keeping the characters moving in very mobile productions.
All twelve of the singing cast gave good accounts of the roles. In Dinner, David Milner-Pearce relished the Earl of Dunmow's language and Emily Kenway gave Mrs Kneebone the full Eliza Doolittle, neither scrimping on tone. As Prince Phillipe, Alberto Sousa sang with bright and easy ring, well-managed within the small space; the Cupid-strike between him and Louise Lloyd's Susan was sweetly played. Sara Gonzalez Saavedra and Elizabeth Roberts played their mother figures straight but with attention and subtlety - I must also mention the bookending role of the Errand Boy which required tenor Rhys Bowden to run into the brewing farce, blurt out high-lying music and then rush off again. It's in such well-taken moments that the comedy lights up.
On the Bridge, there was a similar consistency, with the Samuel Smith's baritone Schoolmaster for me the stand-out (though I wish he hadn't needed to rush about so much to point up his mania and that tiresome 'deer' business). Georgis Ginsberg's Josephine was also fine, setting the standard in the first five minutes to which the subsequent Joseph Padfield (Brewer), Owain Browne (Johnny) and Marta Fontanals-Simmons (Eva) rose. Daniel Ricker's spoken role (the Guards, offstage) was a well-judged addition to the mix, just the right pace and drawl in delivery to convince as a jobsworth and lubricate the comedy nicely. Alice Turner and Lliam Paterson played the pianos (and more besides!) musically and securely in sometimes tricksy scores.