Pirates of Penzance

Date 14th May 2024
Society The Three Towns Society
Venue St Joseph's Hall, Leigh
Type of Production G&S
Director David Kay & Johanna Hassopuna-Smith
Musical Director Phil Boardman
Written By Gilbert and Sullivan


Author: Liz Hume-Dawson

The Three Towns Gilbert and Sullivan choose the musical comedy Pirates of Penzance this year. Officially premiered in New York in 1879 then a year later in 1880 made a debut in London to critical acclaim. It’s amazing how popular G & S and in particular this show is with the authors taking a swipe at the gentry yet again and add sentimental pirates, blundering policemen and improbable paradoxes. A winning formula.  

First of all we are shown to our seats by a pirate - thank goodness I had left the gold at home! The set consisted of a backcloth of the sea complete with seagulls and a pirate’s ship in the distance. The walkway at the back covered in flats that were rugged rocks as were the flats at the side. A ship’s wheel was also used as a seat and to stand on. The Act 11 is a ruined chapel with bench and flower entwined in the windows with a sign saying Green Lane Chippy. Set Construction was David Kay, Derek Morris, Paul Dainton, Harry Holdsworth, Eddie Kearlsey and Rob McGee. Stage Crew were Bernard Holding, Rupert Rees, Ben Hassouna-Smith and Alan Gibson, Lighting by Josh-Smith and Matt Johnson helped the scenes along and Sound was as it should be – unobtrusive - by Lea Royse and Elodie Perrier.

Costumes all looked good and fitted the characters, when the Maids, Chaperones and Housekeeper entered all in white it looked striking. Wardrobe by Charades of St Helens and Ann Batchelor and Elsa McGhee.

The 19-piece band under the guidance of Musical Director Phil Boardman was joyous and I really enjoyed the overture. Phil conducts and brings out a sound that has a tender but powerful touch. Excellent.

The Directors are David Kay and Johanna Hassouna-Smith. With a cast of nearly 40 they certainly looked to be enjoying every minute. Noted was as the Pirate King stood on the ship’s wheel while the pirates imitated the spokes and went around him. The blue light on the Policemen’s helmet and Ruth knitting skull and cross bones. When the curtain went back the pirates were in a striking tableau. The pictures created on stage were great.

The ensemble worked well together and the sound from the musical numbers was delightful. The Pirates, Policemen, Maids, Chaperones and Housekeeper, all supported the action and had their own characters.

Edith played by Beth Garrett, Kate played by Kate Blezard and Isabel played by Julia Sutton, who helped her father out when singing, played the sisters and were in fine voice. Samuel is played by Richard Aspinall complete with large earring, great comedy and energy. Ken Rees plays the Sergeant of Police but is not much of a leader and the force don’t fare much better. Tantra!

Major General Stanley played by David Kay is also one of the Directors. It always amazes me how many words Gilbert and Sullivan fit into a bar but this song takes the biscuit and David takes it in his stride. Loved the cuddly snoopy.

Fran Davies takes on the role of Ruth an inestimable treasure who in today’s standard is a wannabe cougar. If she cannot have Frederic then she will become a pirate and play her trump card: his date of birth.

The Pirate King was played by John Matthias who brought his own humour to the part and looked to have great fun with it. Every inch the Pirate King. The scene with David as The Major about ‘Orphan/ Often’ hilarious.

Last but not least Frederick played by David Griffiths and Mabel the other sister played by Victoria Goulden who gave us a lesson in adeptness of the vocals working well with the orchestra. Simply delightful.

Thank you to The Three Towns for an enjoyable evening for the invite and hospitality from my guest Angela and I.


Liz Hume-Dawson

District 5 Rep.