Librettist: W.S Gilbert
Composer: Arthur Sullivan
Director: John Savournin
Reviewer: Jess Rowe
As part of a trio of touring Gilbert and Sullivan classics from The National Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company, we set sail back to Portsmouth to embark on an evening of mayhem, humour and talent. HMS Pinafore carries the load of a love triangle between Josephine (Elinor Jane Moran), a young Captain’s daughter; a low life sailor Ralph Rackstraw (Oliver White) and highly respected yet remarkably ridiculous Sir Joseph Porter (Richard Gauntlett), the complexity of which weighs the ship down in nonsense and hilarity.
The production clearly leads us through the confusion and manages, in true Gilbert and Sullivan tradition, to twist the plot and resolve the chaos into a happy ending, leaving no audience member behind in the story. The cast is filled with a strong ensemble of sailors and the First Lord’s “sisters, cousins and aunts” that keep the joy and energy flowing; allowing the audience to appreciate the score to its fullest, alongside the clean dance breaks which make the production even more amusing. While the members of the chorus are the stars that keep the flow of the piece, some lyrics that assist the plot are lost through a combination of an overpowering orchestra and little projection from some of the soloists. Luckily, the gist of the situation is easy to pick up through character reactions or the repetition of lines by the ensemble – due to the catchiness of the show’s style.
Kevin Greenlaw as the Captain is one of the strongest cast members; with huge vocals and suave dance moves, he carries out a highly authoritative rôle that contrasts greatly with Gauntlett’s comic timing and hopeless character, making him look even more ridiculous.
The set, staying the same throughout, is beautifully simple. With only one other level of a ship’s wheel, and the entire stage set out as a wooden ship’s deck, it is perfect for a small theatre. The artistic backdrop of a rough sea is complemented splendidly by Stephen Holroyd’s lighting, transforming the colours of the sea in particular moments throughout the show and most memorably bringing the stage alive during the melodic overture lead enthusiastically and fabulously by conductor David Steadman.
The tour is performing three different Gilbert and Sullivan pieces at each of their UK venues and if The Mikado and The Gondoliers are anything like as cleanly produced as HMS Pinafore, I would shout “Bravo!” to the company.
The Gondoliers and The Mikado run until 2nd September as part of a UK Tour