words by W S Gilbert music by Arthur Sullivan.

King’s Head Theatre 115 Upper Street Islington N1 1QN to 29 September 2012.
Tue–Sat 7.15pm Sun 3pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.

TICKETS: 0207 478 0160.
Review: William Russell 6 September.

Fresh melée of pirates and lovesick maids.
The Charles Court Opera has enjoyed success with its staging of other Gilbert and Sullivan Operas, and this latest foray into the Savoy canon is pure delight. John Savournin’s production sparkles, fizzes with energy, is very funny and ensures that this ancient monument of the British stage comes brilliantly alive. It is, not to beat about the bush, a triumph.

Scaling things down to fit the King’s Head’s tiny stage, Savournin has dispensed with all those Major General’s daughters – there are only three – and all the pirates. Apart from the Pirate King, played with great style by Savournin, there is only one sidekick pirate, Samuel (Matthew Kellett, a Marty Feldman lookalike minus the squint, who almost steals the show), and no timorous policemen.

The daughters – Mabel (Alexandra Hutton), Edith (Charlotte Baptie) and Kate (Nichola Jolley) – are not only beautiful, they sing delightfully, Hutton rising with ease to the challenge of all those Italian opera trills Sullivan gives Mabel. As Frederic, the pirate apprentice born on 29 February, Kevin Kyle is in fine voice, and the patter songs are handled to perfection by Simon Masterton-Smith as the Sergeant and Ian Jervis as the modern Major General.

Amy J Payne’s feisty Pirate shipmaid Ruth, who lusts after Frederic, is suitably worth spurning. Gilbert’s old maids, a staple of his plots, can be slightly discomfiting. This one is not.

All the words come over crystal clear, which does not always happen in opera. Sullivan’s score is one of his best, but Gilbert’s libretto is also one of his best and his words deserve to be heard. The Eaton-Young piano duo at one piano performs the music with great panache as if it were minted new.

This is not a sing-along evening, it is fresh, vibrant and could almost have been written – well, yesterday.

Major-General Stanley: Ian Jervis.
The Pirate King: John Savournin.
Samuel (his lieutenant); Matthew Kellett.
Frederic (the Pirate apprentice): Kevin Kyle.
Sergeant of Police: Simon Masterton-Smith.
Mabel: Alexandra Hutton.
Edith: Charlotte Baptie.
Kate: Nichola Jolley.
Ruth (a Pirate Maid of all Work): Amy J Payne.
Piano: David Eaton, James Young.

Director/Choreographer: John Savournin.
Designer: Annie Loach.
Lighting: Nic Holdridge.
Musical Director: David Eaton.
Costume: Martina Trottmann.

2012-09-09 14:02:47

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