Pirates of Penzance, one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s most famous operettas, played to a sold-out theatre under the guiding hand of director Peter Cushley, in what proved to be a jolly and highly energised production.
Pirates charts the tale of Frederic, a kind-hearted lad of twenty-one, searching for a more noble life after his release from his indentures to a band of ramshackle pirates. What follows is two hours of classic G&S antics: deception, tomfoolery, and a love-at-first-sight that faces more than a few obstacles.
Whilst the cast did exceptionally well to keep the energy high throughout the performance, particular mention must go to Alice Gold (Ruth) and Freddie Mack (The Major-General). Gold, in her role as a rambunctious and bawdy ‘piratical maid of all work’, stole the stage whenever she was on it. Likewise, Mack brought a brilliantly nuanced comic turn to the show; with just a few tips of the chin or cheeky winks he kept the audience laughing throughout, and his impressive rendition of ‘I am the very model of a modern Major-General’ deserves its own round of applause.
As we’ve come to expect from the Gilbert and Sullivan Society, musically Pirates of Penzance was almost faultless. While a few solos would have benefitted from better projection, overall the cast navigated the songs with bravado – strong direction and choreography ensuring the occasionally repetitive nature of certain numbers did not fall flat. Though the band began a little hesitantly, with a few unconfident high notes hampering the opening overture, their sound grew into their element under Musical Director Conner McCain’s lead.
Cushley showed a natural talent for direction, creating a production that was well-paced and visually engaging. He also fared admirably as Frederic, opposite a saccharine Emilia Wright as Mabel, who deserves mention for her delightfully indulgent solo vocal runs. Cushley did excellently in showcasing the comedy of Pirates – the production peppered with lovely light-hearted moments, including a nod to chorus member James Green’s recent University Challenge performance and the antics of the least courageous policemen (ably led by Dr Ian Bradley as the Sergeant of Police) Cornwall has ever seen.
The Byre stage is notorious for being hard to fill, but with well-crafted costumes evoking a truly swashbuckling atmosphere (thanks to Madison Hauser) and some risks with lighting that more than paid off, the crew ensured this production more than deserved its stage space. Sprightly and buoyant, Pirates of Penzance has me very excited for the Gilbert and Sullivan society’s next venture.