All-male Pinafore

25 Jun

I was a bit sniffy when I saw Sasha Regan’s all-male version of Pirates of Penzance in Brighton last year.  That didn’t stop me going to see her HMS Pinafore when it arrived here this year – I got to the Saturday matinee on 25th June.  It was a huge amount better.

Pinafore is one of my favourites.  There isn’t a weak number and Gilbert’s dialogue is short but absolutely to the point.  It’s still very, very funny and doesn’t begin to outstay its welcome.

Regan’s production has a bit more point to it than last year’s.  It’s as if a group of modern sailors are staging the opera, improvising costumes and getting involved in the piece.  It’s a nice framing device and explains limited props and costumes.

The direction is a whole lot better than Pirates.  The dialogue is done better and the jokes and staging a huge improvement.  There are some lovely jokes – a Chariots of Fire moment for He is an Englishman and a Titanic moment for Josephine.  It helps that Michael Burgen (very funny, very nasty, very good) as Sir Joseph is about a foot shorter than anyone else.  There’s some fine choreography and some good fitness exercises for what is obviously a very well-trained crew.  A nice in-joke is that Captain Corcoran definitely is not in the same league.  There some nice lunacy around the sisters, cousins and aunts and the escape in Act II.

There’s also a serious element.  I don’t think that I’ve seen the Josephine/Rackstraw taken so seriously – making it both more funny and more touching.  It’s helped by a really excellent performance by Tom Senior as Rackstraw – understated, nicely sung and taking the thing seriously.  He’s matched by Ben Irish’s very funny Josephine, which is also sung really well.

Neil Moors makes a rather thick Captain Corcoran, David McKechnie stays the right side of camp and makes an almost touching Buttercup, Richard Russell Edwards has a lovely time camping up Hebe – just right here.  James Waud is rather fine as Dick Deadeye and the ensemble works hard and is very, very easy on the eye.

Certainly not a full house, but it was extremely enthusiastic and I thought that this performance was more fun, more true to the original and had more life than many of more lavish, better resourced productions that I’ve seen.  I recommend it.


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