As an avid G&S fan, I was delighted to be asked to review Christchurch Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s production of Pirates of Penzance, and as Pirates is one of my favourite G&S operettas, how could I refuse?
And what a delight it was to know from the first note of the overture that I was going to be watching something good! The overture was semi-choreographed and this was well done: first entered a group of children playing on the beach, building sandcastles and having fun, then their parents looking for a nice spot to sunbathe. The mum produced a book entitled Pirates of Penzance and you could see the children entranced, listening to the story. This was portrayed very well and all while the beautiful overture was being played.
Following the overture is the entrance of the pirates and what a lovely sound they produce, a very strong male chorus singing ‘Pour oh pour the pirate sherry’. Andrew Daish as Samuel has a lovely voice and good characterisation, while Christine Eastwood as Ruth, the piratical maid of all work, certainly has her work cut out keeping these rowdy pirates in check!
The scenery and set design is traditional Gilbert and Sullivan; it is very well done and fits well. There is a great confident entrance from the chorus of girls and I found it extremely difficult not to sing along with them as they ‘gaily tripped’ onto the stage – I could see how much fun they were having together. One ‘Cornish daughter’ stands out from the rest of the crowd: Rachel Matthews as Mabel. She has an outstanding voice and excellent stage presence, and the cadenza at the end of ‘Poor wand’ring one’ shows her vocal talent and range at its best.
Richard Moore portrays a lovely Fredrick, although he could show a little more love towards Mabel and sometimes lacks facial expressions, but I enjoyed his trio, ‘A paradox’, with Ruth and the Pirate King, Mark Ward, who comes across brilliantly: he is a very strong actor and has a good voice.
Brian Oliver as Major General Stanley is a humorous and likeable character, showing his ease and confidence in the traditional G&S patter song, ‘I am the very model of a modern major general’.
The policemen’s chorus can make or break the show, and this one certainly makes it, Richard Haynes as the Sergeant of Police is wonderful – he plays it as a John Cleese character and it is very comic.
There is some excellent chorus singing and the orchestra under the musical direction of Ieuan Davies are note perfect – my feet were tapping and I was singing along all the way through this well-rounded, traditional Gilbert and Sullivan production.
Future performances: 23 September at 7.30; 24 September at 2.30 and 7.30.