You get two for one with the celebrated Creagh/Carr Review: The opinions of seasoned hackette Bev Creagh and flamboyant newshound Stewart Carr. Here, they review the Putteridge Bury Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s production of ‘The Pirates of Penzance’, currently playing at the Queen Mother Theatre in Hitchin.
CREAGH SAYS ... This is Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance like you’ve never seen it before, complete with Essex girls filing their nails, chewing gum and taking selfies on the beach.
It’s a romp from start to finish and my only gripe is that some of Gilbert’s very clever lyrics weren’t always audible. But whether you can blame that on Essex is another matter . . .
Star of the show without a doubt is Liz Bottone as Mabel, a commanding stage presence with a magnificent voice.
She falls in love with Frederic (Shayn Dickens), the hapless young man who should have been a pilot, had it not been for his nurse Ruth (a great comic performance from Sue Wookey) thinking his father wanted him apprenticed as a pirate.
Now Frederic has come of age, he’s keen to leave his wicked past behind him and follow a more respectable career path.
But these pirates are no common cut-throats as their gentleman pirate king (Stephen Hoath) is quick to point out, with much swashing of his buckle.
The noble pirates storm the beach and intend to marry the girls until Mabel’s major general father arrives.
David Crew carries the part perfectly and sings the much-loved ‘I am the Very Model of a Major General’ with be-whiskered gusto.
There’s also the usual Gilbert & Sullivan mix ups with orphans and leap year birthdays – which means Frederic is only five, not 21, and is therefore is duty-bound to return to the pirates.
The cops are called and they arrive with a real Alsatian who behaves impeccably throughout all the mayhem.
But it all ends happily ever after – the pirates are indeed from the upper classes and have no qualms about inviting the Essex girls to be their brides.
A thoroughly entertaining evening with strong performances from Putteridge Bury Gilbert & Sullivan Society members.
CARR SAYS ... Being unfamiliar with Gilbert & Sullivan’s body of work, I went into this completely blind with no preconceptions at all about what I was going to see.
And I have to say, I was delighted!
We’re transported to a beach in Cornwall – in what time period we never know – where a motley crew of pirates are celebrating the coming of age of young Frederic (Shayn Dickens).
Now 21, hapless Frederick is celebrating the end of his indenture and a new life outside of piracy.
Nurse (Sue Wookey) hopes to tag along with him but is thwarted by the arrival of the major general’s lovely daughters ... all nine of them!
Frederic quickly becomes besotted with Mabel (a pitch-perfect performance from Liz Bottone) but that all changes when it is revealed he was born on a leap year, and the pirates – deciding Frederic is just five – demand his return!
From then on, it’s a colourful farce of attempted abduction, bungling policemen and equally incompetent pirates. Being one of Gilbert & Sullivan’s better known operas, the production does its best to modernise it this time around, with modern clothing, TOWIE vernacular and a few selfies on the Cornish beach.
The Pirates of Penzance is a delightful, fun-filled show that remains true to the spirit of Gilbert & Sullivan while adding a modern twist.
The show plays at the Queen Mother theatre, Hitchin until Saturday, April 1. See here for tickets.