HMS Pinafore

Thu 9th – Sat 11th February 2017


Clare Cavenagh

at 15:33 on 10th Feb 2017



Confession: I'd never been to a Gilbert and Sullivan before last night. I mentioned this to a friend, and they said 'it's really, really stupid, but you'll like it'. How right they were. The Gilbert and Sullivan society's production of HMS Pinafore is certainly unashamedly silly, but it's also damn good: great music, interesting to look at and full of laughs. Head along to the West Road Concert Hall to catch it before it sails, swaying slightly, out to sea.

Central to the story of HMS Pinafore are Josephine and Buttercup. Josephine (Tiffany Charnley), daughter of the ship's captain, is due to be married to Sir Joseph (Michael Morrison), a small man with a big job as head of the Royal Navy. Unfortunately, she has (rather in spite of herself) fallen in love with a lowly sailor with a lovely tenor (Max Noble). Buttercup (Anna-Luise Wagner) meanwhile has designs on the ship's captain (Luke Thomas) and knows more about both him and the young lovers than she is letting on. Chaos delightfully ensues.

The G & S Society have decided to play this farcical, nautical romp in the most light-hearted and jolly of manners. The characters run around the stage in little sailor suits complete with white hats, or in lovely, floaty white lace shirts tucked into flowing skirts. Choreography sticks close to this, with a little waltzing, plenty of that crossed-arm, as well as some of that stiff-legged sailor-dancing everyone can recognise. Along with the simple yet effective and interesting sets (designed by Theo Heymann) this show is a rose-tinted delight to watch.

The music, which forms the backbone of this production is also wonderful. The orchestra, under the direction of Tristan Selden, do an excellent job of the score, and the singing onstage is wonderful - the cast all incredibly strong. Their expressive performances, peppered with some up to the minute jokes on topics as widespread as Brexit, Girton and S&M, kept the audience giggling right through the show.

HMS Pinafore did suffer from the occasional hiccough. There were a couple of technical issues with lighting, one rather confusing instance at the beginning of the second act, and a couple of lighting effects which seemed slightly out of time with the music. A little more diction from some soloists would have helped to make their thrillingly dense lyrics carry more clearly through the hall, and be more comprehensible. At a couple of moments the cast got slightly out of time with the orchestra, although this was quickly remedied by a few big conducting gestures.

Overall however, these faults were very minor, and HMS Pinafore was a thoroughly enjoyable evening of light-hearted laughs and great music. I'm not entirely sure that I'm a Gilbert and Sullivan convert, but if all the G & S Society's offerings are as much fun as this, you can count me in.


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