Written by Natasha Jewa
It’s November … it’s one month to Christmas… and it’s time for the annual 4th year medics musical. Over the last 4 years the bar has been set high by productions of Sweeney Todd and Jekyll and Hyde.
This year’s production, Pirates of Penzance, had a lot to live up to. The mood was definitely very different from the previous two I had seen. From the opening scene – a menagerie of partially bare-chested, rum-drinking, singing and dancing pirates plunged the audience into an exciting world. Frederick, played by the multi-talented Luke Jones, is a young, morally upstanding pirate who is released from his apprenticeship to the notorious Pirates of Penzance on his 21st birthday. Denouncing his criminal background, Frederick is determined to right all their past wrongs and cause the destruction of the pirate band. With the addition of 22 beautiful but innocent sisters, an accomplished father, a deceitful nursemaid and a surprising twist and you produce a musical which is enchantingly entertaining.
The highlight was, without a doubt, Thomas Hatfield as the Major General or father of 22 girls (which makes him rather accomplished in more ways than one). I would personally like to commend him on remembering and reciting all the words in time to the quirky and incredibly clever song “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General” while still staying in character. Many of you might better know the tune of this song as the tune of the Element Song, and if so, you will understand what a feat this is. Even more impressive was that someone took the time to rewrite the lyrics so it included current day politics, with honourable mentions of Brexit, Donald Trump and Pokémon Go amongst others.
My personal favourite was the policemen. Essentially, some of the sisters made a reappearance in the second half of the musical as members of law enforcement, an entirely different role from the simpering girls they had just played. Their Sharpied-on moustaches and “tarantara-ing” as well as their utter incompetence really embraced the characteristic silliness of Gilbert and Sullivan. A strong performance was given by Becca Humphreys as the police sergeant; her facial expressions captured the ridiculousness of their situation perfectly. I also
enjoyed Luke Jones’s interpretation of the main character Frederick as slightly awkward but very righteous. His strong tenor vocals paired particularly well with Anna Stubbs as Mabel. Undoubtedly the best vocals of the performance, her soprano was rich and enchanting. However, Mabel is a character without much substance and there wasn’t as much to play around with in terms of acting. Other notable performances were put on by Angus Kitchin as the pirate king and Bethany Davies as Ruth, the nursemaid.
Compared to previous years, I felt the set could have used some work. Efforts could have been made to produce a more 3D background. The costumes were rather impressive on the other hand; the feel was distinctively 19th century. The orchestra never disappoints and this year was the same. However, I’m not sure if this was purely the night I went but the orchestra had to fill a 10-minute interval before the cast came on stage at the beginning of the musical. This caused some confusion amongst the audience; however we were soon enthralled once the pirates made an appearance.
The production was buoyant, light-hearted fun and at no point in the musical did I stop smiling. One of the best works of Gilbert and Sullivan, the songs were upbeat and catchy and the cast really seemed to be enjoying themselves as they performed. Although there was not much in the way of character or theme development, one has to remember that this is not Sweeney Todd or Jekyll and Hyde. There was no darkness, only light and laughter in this musical and overall it was a very enjoyable evening indeed. And anyone who says otherwise should be made to walk the plank!