The Pirates Of Penzance by York Opera
York Theatre Royal, November 4
York Opera’s take on Gilbert and Sullivan classic The Pirates of Penzance is a wonderful comedic romp through slapstick blunders and soaring vocals with an impressive cast of more than 50 performers.
Pirates follows the unlikely story of Frederic, a pirate apprentice, who now that he has reached his 21st birthday has been relieved of his duties and vows to come back to destroy them; as he is now a free citizen.
On his wanders across the beach he comes across a gaggle of girls, and finds love with Mabel. Unfortunately, the pirates have the same idea and soon there is a very unsuccessful feud struck between the law and the unlawful pirates.
Between Gilbert’s complicated lyrics and Sullivan’s timeless music, Pirates sounds sensational.
Without strong male and female vocalists – helped along by a 40 strong chorus – this production would undoubtedly fall flat.
But the main characters – Frederic – a foppish Hamish Brown; The Pirate King – the commanding stage presence of Ian Thomson-Smith; Major-General Stanley – hilariously played by John Soper; Anthony Gardner as a suitably bumbling Sergeant of Police; and Rebecca Smith as the down-trodden Ruth all provide fantastic vocals and entertainment.
However it is Heather Watts, as the vivacious and exuberant Mabel, who steals the show. Singing an incredibly difficult song effortlessly, she delivered a matchless performance.
The audience laughed throughout. Although I missed some of the humour among the fast and sometimes hard to decipher lyrics, it is a funny show.
From the song about an apprenticeship which confused the job of a pilot with that of a pirate, to the pirates only killing those who are not orphans (hence everyone they commandeered claimed to be one), this comedy opera is consistently amusing.
Considering the cast is so large, they seamlessly move from scene to scene with remarkable grace – a credit to directors Hilary Dyson and Pauline Marshall.
The set is simple, yet combined with lighting designer Zanna Woodgate’s capacity for creating a sense of space and time, works well in summoning up the two locations.
Let’s not forget the orchestra conducted by musical director Alasdair Jamieson, which provides magical support to the production.
As a result, The Pirates Of Penzance is exactly what you would expect from a professional production. With their shameless enthusiasm and talent, York Opera are a credit to our city.