The Pirates of Penzance

Date 28th February 2020
Society Blackburn G & S Society
Venue Thwaites Empire Theatre
Type of Show G&S
Director David Slater
Musical Director John G Barry


Author: Patricia Connor

 The Pirates of Penzance; or, The Slave of Duty is a comic opera in two acts and was the fifth collaboration  by W. S.Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. The show premiered at the Fifth Avenue Theatre New York in 1879 before opening at the Opera Comique London in 1880. It is one of the most frequently performed Gilbert and Sullivan operas along with The Mikado and H.M.S. Pinafore.

The story is about Frederic, who should have been apprenticed to a pilot as a young boy but unfortunately he was mistakenly apprenticed to a band of Pirates by his nursemaid Ruth. However now having reached his twenty first birthday he is to be released from this apprenticeship.He meets Mabel, the daughter of Major-General Stanley, while walking on the beach with her sisters and they fall in love. Frederic sees his opportunity to atone for his life of piracy and agrees to help the police to capture the Pirates .Unfortunately, Frederic is told by Ruth and the Pirate King that he was born on the 29th of February so is a leap year baby, and only has a birthday every four years, meaning technically he is only five years old, so he is still apprenticed to the pirates for another sixty-three years. Frederic has a strong sense of duty, and reluctantly he re-joins the Pirates and tells them that the police plan to storm their hideout, happily Mabel says she will wait for him. In the end all problems are resolved and everything ends happily

I was really looking forward to this production as “Pirates of Penzance” is one of my favourite Gilbert and Sullivan operettas and happily I was not disappointed as this was an upbeat very entertaining production with some innovative ideas and good performances from the cast. 

When the show opened there was a lovely surprise when we were treated to a wonderful performance by The Zoe Thompson dancers, telling the story of the Opera in the form dance, all the dancers interpreted the excellent choreography expertly and beautifully. They were accompanied by the expert orchestra led by Musical Director John G Barry playing the overture, they performed at just the right level of sound for the show supporting the cast very well.

Director David Slater as usual added some lovely innovative touches to the production  and had gathered together an enthusiastic cast that resulted in a good comedic interpretation of this well-loved show. Everyone worked together as a team, to make this an enjoyable evening for the audience.The cast included Paul Cross who performed strongly and sang very well as Pirate Apprentice, and birthday boy Frederic, he was complemented nicely by Deborah Thew in the role of Mabel who looked the part and gave an excellent performance reaching the high notes with ease. David Seager played the Pirate King with  lots of confidence and some swagger, while Tony Lewis was first-rate producing some lovely subtle comedy as Major General Stanley, making a very good job of“ I am the very Model of a Modern Major General”. Heather Nicholas produced a very enjoyable comedic performance as Ruth, Frederic’s nursemaid, I really liked her interpretation of this character and Craig Fletcher gave us a rather camp Samuel the Piratical Aide-de-camp which was an enjoyable comical twist to this role making it more prominent. Mick Dawson had just the right voice for the Sergeant of Police, who was supported by his fellow policemen and the roles of Edith and Kate were very nicely played by Kath Rand and Amy Bell. There was also another surprise towards the end of the show when we were treated to an appearance by Queen Victoria (Irene Kennedy).The chorus as a whole performed with lots of enthusiasm, supporting the principal cast well, but even though the women’s chorus was rather depleted, I have to say I was impressed that each of them played their part to the full. All the chorus appeared to be enjoying themselves which came across to the audience.and I have to say I really enjoyed  “Hail Poetry”. Generally diction and projection were satisfactory, meaning the dialogue and sung words could be followed easily by the audience and the pace of the show was just right.

There were just two sets, one for each act which were well designed, effective and built by Eric Parkington. Costumes were  just right and very colourful, they enhanced and brought authenticity to the production.

Congratulations to  David Slater and all involved in bringing this very enjoyable production to the stage and thank you for making my friend and I welcome.