The Pirates of Penzance – Theatre Royal, Norwich

Writers: Gilbert and Sullivan
Director: Cav.Vivian Coates
Musical Director: Andrew Nicklin
Reviewer: Lu Greer

Gilbert and Sullivan’s Operas, known for bringing fun and accessibility to a medium which is so often considered distant to many, have produced many an iconic show but perhaps none more so than The Pirates of Penzance.

tell-us-block_editedThanks to his hard of hearing nursemaid, instead of an apprenticeship as a ship’s pilot, the audience follows Frederic (Anthony Flaum) as he completes his 21st year and ends his time as a ship’s pirate. This is a story which has had many successful runs since its debut in 1879 and has many a fan happy to watch it time and again, but with the story of the hapless pirate crew being well over one hundred and 30 years old it must of course now ask the question: can it still entertain an audience?

The simple answer? Yes. The show starts a little slowly but soon has the audience laughing and keeps that pace well until the final curtain. The band of rambunctious pirates is utilised to demonstrate both its comedic ability, and the considerable talent of its cast. The chorus, for the most part, does an excellent job and adds subtle comedy in the background of scenes, although sometimes one or two do seem a little lost in the melee. The cast’s talent is most evident in the performances of Emma Walsh as Mabel and Richard Gauntlett as Major-General Stanley. Walsh’s soprano is impressive and her unusual combination of heartfelt moments with comic timing means that she truly makes the character her own. Meanwhile, Gauntlett steals the show as the haphazard General, particularly in his
impressive rendition of I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General. While the minimalistic set gives a pantomimic feel that works at times, at others, it feels a little lacklustre and doesn’t serve to add anything to the show. It is the stage filling choreography that saves the day, however, with its excellent timing and genuine skill at building the audiences’ impression of the characters.

From the rapturous applause of the audience, it’s clear that Gilbert and Sullivan still has its place and still has its fans. There are certainly points when the dated jokes fall a little flat, and the simplicity of the story leaves something to be desired, but for a light-hearted and a genuinely fun trip to the opera there’s little more could be asked of these
extremely talented Buccaneers.

Runs until 16 September 2017 | Image: Contributed

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