Pirates of Penzance

Northern Light Theatre Company. Shedley Theatre. 21 Apr 2012 

If you will excuse the pun, the Northern Light Theatre Company’s latest offering of the The Pirates of Penzance is the very model of a modern tilt at G & S.

Sue Pole’s direction of the show is cleverly consistent and shows both a respect and understanding of the subtle cerebral gymnastics of the dialogue. Choreographically Kerreanne Sarti’s vision trundles along well with interesting shape and movement. Tammy Papps’ musical control of the orchestra and cast kept the show moving along with strength.

The book by William Gilbert, remains on the whole, untouched. The setting, much the same and the tunes all true to the music penned by Sir Arthur Sullivan. The orchestration however deviates markedly from the original in both texture and at times pace, which can make the lyrics and melody the ‘slave’ of tempo, clarity and dynamic. Because of this the music of this production seemed to suffer a crisis of identity.

The creative production team has assembled a strong and talented group of players. Gavin Cianci as the Pirate King played the role with swagger and he led the show stopping ‘Cat Like Tread’ with appropriate gravitas. David MacGillivray’s Frederick (with echoes of Michael J Fox and Jack Wild) was fun and his vocals well-grounded which worked well with the new orchestrations.

Laura Buick’s Mabel was nicely played and sweet. Her rich operatic voice towered beautifully above the others, though I’m not so sure that it always worked with the modern orchestration. Wendy Rayner as Ruth struggled with some of the lower notes (on the night) but her characterisation was true and was met with strong applause.

Ben Kempster was a standout as the Major General, his timing and overall physicality is exactly what Gilbert and Sullivan are about. Russell Ford’s Sergeant of Police sang clear and true.

In the ensemble Holly Hodges, Belinda Knott and Elyse Batson worked very well together often creating a ‘scene inside a scene’ especially in the number ‘Oh, is there not one maiden breast’, which was both funny and clever.

Vocally the ensemble were strong, a standout here is Brody Green in the singing role of Samuel.  Mention needs to be made of Dominic Hodges who occasionally stole the moment with his ‘pirate of questionable orientation’. His characterisation was consistent and memorable.

It is obvious the cast were having fun; the occasional smirk on stage said that. The thunderous cheers, standing ovations and multiple calls for encore at the end of the show said so was the audience.  

David Gauci

When: 13 Apr to 28 Apr
Where: The Shedley Theatre
Bookings: www.northernlight.org.au