Review: Pirates of Penzance by LOpSoc – ★★★★1/2

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LOpSoc’s The Pirates of Penzance dragged itself onto stage on opening night – quite literally.

Gilbert and Sullivan’s perennial crowd-pleaser is the tale of a young man (Frederic), newly free of his life among pirates, who meets his beloved (Mabel) – but her sisters, Major-General father, an accident of birth, and the pirates themselves prove no small obstruction to their happily ever after…

Our first sight, lovingly-crafted scenery aside, was an open-shirted pirate, crawling onto stage on his stomach. For me, this was the only major lapse of Jon North and Ian Wainwright’s production: an almost self-indulgently overlong opening also featuring a pirouetting Captain Jack Sparrow drag act, and a particularly grimace-inducing gag where one pirate urinates into a mug, and spends two minutes trying to prevent every other pirate on stage from drinking it.

That said, ‘G&S’ is nothing if not self-indulgent; the torturous opening is over with a bang; and the production has much else to recommend it.

There are sparkling vocals from Ruth (Jenny Samuel) especially on ‘O False One…’; from the gravelly, mincing, commanding Pirate King (Joseph Hand), and from Mabel (Roseanna Bowen), whose ‘Poor Wandering One’ is a highlight. There’s exquisite costuming (watch out for the lion skin!), and Gilbert and Sullivan’s rip-roaring, multi-syllabic tongue-twister ‘I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General’ executed with aplomb by Samuel Williams.

Frederic’s (Alex Conway) evolution from a cutlass-brandishing coward into maturity is a particular delight, and the performances by the ‘green’ talents of Robin Harris and Jeremy Hunt, in addition to the first-year Major-General and Pirate King, promise much for the future.

The zany antics of the policemen and pirate ensembles will have you in stitches, and the infamous score was largely immaculately conducted by Thomas Joy. A few technical hitches and opening night nerves detracted nothing from a truly splendid performance that is a credit to all involved, and deserves full houses.

LOpSoc’s The Pirates of Penzance is on at the Nuffield Theatre from Wednesday 12th – Saturday 15th March at 7:30pm, with a 2pm matinée performance on Saturday.

Tickets are £8 for students and other concessions, £7 for PA members, and £14 for members of the public. Tickets can be bought online at www.nuffieldtheatre.co.uk, or in person at the Nuffield Box Office.

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