Skip to main content

Review of The Pirates Of Penzance performed by the Northampton Gilbert & Sullivan Group at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

I did a little research unusually before seeing this version of The Pirates of Penzance from the Northampton Gilbert & Sullivan Group, and one thing I found was the over eight-minute Overture. Would we be presented with the full deal at the start of this production, I wondered? As it turned out, yes we were, thankfully I am not afraid of the dark. I did try to imagine though what the audience of Shrek, on next door this week, would have thought, being faced with this. How times have changed.

The Pirates of Penzance is if you have ever seen a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta before, more of the same. They don't really vary, I have learnt from my previous three viewings, the scenery changes, but it all remains the whimsical story of abject silliness. This time featuring pirates, in Penzance, and the many daughters of a modern Major General.

Pirates is perhaps the most well known of Gilbert & Sullivan's works, and on the evidence of this, by far the most accessible for a new viewer. Even the brilliant set (designed by director Leon Berger, and constructed by Sarah and Simon Crask), leaves a relaxing feeling of familiarity, it forming a children's playroom, littered with toys of yesteryear, comics adorning the walls, and walls made from giant lego pieces. It's a brilliant concept, which is expanded upon going into the clockwork policemen and the stick horses for later scenes. The whole visual appeal, in general, is actually excellently done.

Performances are also generally very good, there is great work from Simon Crask as The Pirate King and Tom Pearson as Frederick. Both providing good vocals for the challenging songs, but perhaps stronger in their characters, bringing them both to life in a buoyant lively style.

There is some devilish fun to be had also from Susan Drake's Ruth, again channelling much of what made her hugely entertaining as Lady Jane last year in Patience, great humour once again. There is some great support from Alison Mead, Hannah Crockatt and Jessica Revitt as the daughters Edith, Kate and Isabel, all creating very different characters in their own rights, but equally supporting one another in their nice choreographed scenes.

However, there are a couple of standout performances, the first of which is Paul Darnell as the quite brilliant character Major-General Stanley. Immediately causing a scene from his first inflatable arrival, he provides enormous fun with the over the top character. He delivers the challenging Very Model of a Modern Major-General with aplomb, bringing this classic fully to life.

Finally though is Rachel Bedford as Mabel in a startling vocal performance, she has been the incredible strong point in two previous shows, and here is no different. Right from the stunning delivery of Poor wand'ring one, she delivers some incredible numbers and is every bit the star turn.

Technically this opening evening went reasonably smoothly, although there were clearly a few issues with spotlights and the lighting on occasion was extremely dark, even allowing for mood in some scenes. However, it was otherwise extremely successful and scenes were reasonably well controlled and staged, even when the large cast were all on stage, which meant it a little cramped at times.

Gilbert & Sullivan, I know is not for everyone, they form a curious bridge between proper opera, comedy and musicals, that is definitely niche. I enjoy them very much, despite the fact that they all appear to be extremely similar. Here the group, with very well known Pirates, with its familiar tunes, are offering perhaps the best way to discover if you are a G&S fan or not if you have not witnessed its strange world before.

Performance reviewed: Monday 19th March 2018 at the Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton.

The Pirates Of Penzance runs until Saturday 24th March 2018 at the Royal & Derngate.

For further details about the Royal & Derngate visit their website at

Popular posts from this blog

Review of Bugsy Malone (Clyde Company) at The Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

Last night I was back at Royal & Derngate to see the Youth Theatre/Young Company production of Bugsy Malone, this time seeing the almost completely different cast of Clyde Company. This second evening of the show had the fortune of running much smoother, with less of the technical issues that had beset the previous evening and restricted the success of some of the scenes.

It was most apparent in the Fat Sam's Grand Slam scene, which became a greater hive of activity, with a full dance routine taking place, which unfortunately hadn't happened the previous night. Leading this scene was a full-on performance from Morgan Charles as Tullulah, exhibiting the vocal talent, and most especially the dance skills she had shown in last years Fame.

In the lead for this second company, and taking a much different approach to the role, was Nathan Stroud. Here we had a more mature Bugsy, not just in age, but in personality. The slightly more serious style worked excellently alongside a st…

Review of Planet Circus OMG! 2016 at Billing Aquadrome, Northampton

An unexpected call from a friend who had received a free ticket, à la Willy Wonka's Golden Ticket, to go and see a circus for free, left me sitting in a circus tent a few hours later for the first time in about thirty years.

It was a wise, albeit on occasion, scary decision. I have to confess that when seeing shows like this, where there is an element of danger involved I do tend to squirm into the chair I sit. This happened mostly during the opening act of the second half of the show, the suitably titled Wheel Of Death. I rolled into an uncomfortable ball, while the five or six year old behind me gleefully shouted that "they are going to die!".

This was a scary welcome to the second act, after the first much more relaxing first half. It works excellently and is credit to producer and director Mark Whitney that the show is perfectly balanced, with the bulk of traditional circus arts in the first half, while the more spectacular and often more modern feeling ones are in …

Review of The Crucible at Royal & Derngate (Underground), Northampton

A few weeks ago I headed down to London to see this years graduating University of Northampton BA Actors perform Arthur Miller's classic The Crucible, and while it was generally spotlessly performed, as expected, the staging of it was tremendously dull, offering little stimulation beyond just the words being said. It made a classic, quite dull as a result. There was no such issue with The Actors Company production, staged in the atmospheric Underground space, and directed with such style and flair by Fay Lomas, to make Miller's play unrecognisable from that London version.

Based around the Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts, Reverend Parris (a tough uncompromising performance from Steve While) comes across a group of girls dancing in the forest. When one of the girls, Betty (Laura Green), falls into a coma, events spiral out of control for many of the residents of the town, as accusations fly. Soon, Judge Danforth (Sue Whyte) is on the scene, and the lives of the residents a…