The Pirates Of Penzance


You can tell when you have had a good night out when you think the show has finished all too soon, and you are left wanting more. This was certainly my experience last night at this production of The Pirates of Penzance.

The show is a well-known comic opera where the male protagonist, Frederic, has just finished his 21-year apprenticeship to a band of pirates. He meets Mabel the daughter of Major-General Stanley, and the two fall instantly in love. However, Frederic finds out that as he was born on the 29th of February, so technically, his lengthy period of indenture will not finish for another 63 years! As an ethical character, Frederic agrees to stay, whilst Mabel agrees to wait for him. Pirates was the fifth Gilbert and Sullivan collaboration and introduced the Major-General’s song and other well-known numbers.

The opening of the show, during the overture, included a beautiful, ethereal underwater scene which was enhanced with the use of a gauze. Although this worked well, and I understand that for practical reasons, the gauze was left in place during the introduction of the pirates, it gave the impression that the pirates were underwater too, so this was rather confusing.

Elizabeth Cooke did a wonderful job with the costumes, choosing a palate of earthy colours initially, and she had a lot of people to dress! However, I did not feel that the steampunk goggles added anything, and I wanted a traditional tricorn hat for the pirate king rather than a top hat, and perhaps something more elaborate for Mabel.

The set, props and backdrop were particularly good, and the backstage crew are to be congratulated on achieving two complete set changes during the show.

The lighting added atmosphere and was well designed by Jonny Ledger, but the microphones suffered from slight issues in the first half as occasionally there seemed to be too much treble. This was soon resolved, however, and did not spoil the enjoyment of the show.

These are all small points in the grand scheme of things, as the acting, singing and music were all at a remarkably high standard indeed. In such a large cast it is not possible to review everyone’s performance unfortunately, but I must mention Camilla Foster Mitchell (Mabel) who has an astonishing voice and was quite mesmerising on stage. Adam Davies was likable, and gave a sympathetic, convincing performance as Frederick. He is a particularly good singer and actor. Likewise, David Danson (Major General Stanley), who can also deliver a punchline and was very funny. Ruth, played by Amanda King, is another actor who has a beautiful voice and was amusing as the middle-aged woman lusting after Frederick.

The well trained and skilled orchestra of fifteen musicians provided the backdrop to the evening, under the musical direction of Helen Brind, whilst the director brought out much of the comedy in the piece – including something so topical that it must have been added at dress rehearsal. There were homages to Monty Python, Les Misérables and of course Pirates Of The Caribbean, whilst the end of the show brought the house down! Claire Camble – Hutchins is a very clever lady indeed, her creativity, vision and stagecraft were very impressive. She also did all the choreography, so it was fabulous to witness the talents of these two local women who were at the heart of creating this excellent show.

I am a recent G&S convert and now realise what I have been missing – I loved this show and would highly recommend it. There are three further performances at The Lighthouse, Poole – catch it while you can.