HMS Pinafore to 30 November
Seen – 1 November 2013
By W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan
The Union Theatre, 204 Union Street, London SE1 0LX to 30 November 2013 and Hackney Empire 15 -23 February 2014
Tues – Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & Sun 2.30pm
Runs 2hr One interval
TICKETS: 0207 261 9876
Hackney Empire tickets: 0208 985 242
Review: William Russell 1 November
The Queen’s Navee struggles to keep afloat.
Director Sasha Regan has scored a series of deserved hits with her all male cast productions of Gilbert and Sullivan operas. But whereas the casting worked like a dream in Pirates of Penzance, Patience and Iolanthe this staging of one of the merriest of the duo’s operas is more miss than hit. It is a pity because the production is spirited and the cast work hard.
The problem, however, is this time round Regan has a concept. In the previous productions the fact the women’s roles were played by men was a given just as boys playing the women’s roles in Shakespeare’s time or as today they are in the productions by Edward Hall’s Propeller company. The gender of the actor is irrelevant as far as the character the actor is playing.
Regan, however, gives us a production of Pinafore allegedly being put on by British prisoners of war in a Nazi stalag with the result that the sex of who plays whom matters. The actors become male servicemen playing women and duly camp it up with disastrous results. The problem is compounded by her decision to kit out the cast of serviceman in gym kit with only vestigial bits and pieces to indicate gender which demolishes one of the essential elements of Gilbert’s book – that people are what they wear. Remove the gold braid from one sailor and give it to another and social distinctions are switched. If there is no gold braid and all the other accoutrements of the officer class to remove the joke is lost.
Regan’s error is illustrated by some marvellous photographs in the programme belonging to Stuart and Hilary Williams of a production staged by the Offadium Theatre Company in Stalag 383 during the Second World War. The costumes are amazing.
Pinafore, in spite of everything however, remains a delightful, virtually indestructible show, Tom Senior is a strapping and melodious Ralph Rackstraw and, if only he had some gold braid to wear, Benjamin Vivian-Jones would match him as Captain Corcoran. But David McKechnie with a clown’s red nose is dreadfully unfunny as The Rt Hon Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B and some of the others are not up to the demands of their roles. The chorus, however, is hunky and tuneful and if the cousins and aunts would just stop camping it up they would be delightful.
Josephine: Bex Roberts
Hebe: Richard Russell Edwards
Buttercup: Ciaran O’Driscoll
Ralph: Tom Senior
Captain: Benjamin Vivian-Jones
Dick Deadeye: Lee Van Geleen
Sir Joseph Porter: David McKechnie
Carpenter: Tommy Knapp
Boatswain: Alex Beaumont
Ensemble of sailors, marines, sisters, cousins and aunts
Julian Goincalves, Shane Landers, John Sandberg, Benjamin Wong, Jordan Ramroop, Will Keith, Jacob Baumila.
Director: Sasha Regan
Choreographer: Lizzi Gee
Musical Supervisor: Michael England
Musical Director: Chris Mundy
Designer: Ryan Dawson-Laight
Dance Captain: Shane Landers
Assistant Director: Will Keith
Associate Designer: Kingsley Hall