The Pirates of Penzance

Date 8th May 2013
Society East Norfolk Operatic Society
Venue Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich
Type of Production Operetta
Director Margaret Collingwood
Musical Director Eric James


Author: Terry Rymer

  What a great venue. The historic Maddermarket  captures the total feel of theatre as it should be and ENOS provided a great show to compliment the atmosphere. From the outrageously kitsch opening with a new slant on location and just some of the ‘infamous Pirates’ preparing themselves for the fray, so to speak…A nice touch with Samuel (Robin Richardson) the loyal Lieutenant, enjoying a quick nap in his hammock as we entered. The pirate ship also resembled something of the Sergeant Peppers Hearts Club Band with its euphonium funnel and somewhat unusual superstructure; but that helped set the tone of this ever so slightly ‘different’ take on this G and S classic.

  Devotees of the genre need not have worried however as it was all there…just somewhere else! From the outset we could see that this cast were enjoying themselves as the Pirates with some interesting costumes and weaponry regaled us in hearty manner as we are introduced to their Pirate King ( Ian Robertson) His rendition was of course one of swashbuckling swagger; however I always feel that this iconic number comes too early in the piece and does not give the ‘King’ time to warm up and create his masterful persona to best effect, but cannot blame him for that! As the story unfolds we are truly entertained by Ruth (Ros Swetman) the glorious ‘Maid of all Work. Who, with a wicked twinkle in here eye introduces us to her rather unfortunate error. Hers was a fine performance with just the right touch of humour and equal measure of self deprecation coupled with some excellent vocals. She of course has, by accident, led Frederick ( Edward Saklavala) the Pirate Apprentice, onto a different career path and one which, although followed with true zeal, is not to his liking as he looks forward to ending his indentures ! This was an outstanding performance. His singing was truly a highlight of the show with excellent diction and wonderful control as he manages to manoeuvre his way into the mindset of a troubled but committed ‘slave of duty’. His duet in Act Two with Mabel ( Rachel Goodchild) was a joy. Mabel herself with fine voice, gave a lovely performance and was suitably demure and, of course, wins his heart as she makes herself stand out from the Daughters of the Major-General Stanley ( Keith Swetman) who looked every inch the archetypal ex Officer of the British Army of the day. His rapid sung recitation of ‘The Very Model of a Modern Major General’ drew a well deserved round of applause.

  As with all G and S musicals the whole event is the domain of ‘the Chorus’, and here we had a really accomplished set of Daughters who relished their roles as ladies confronted by ‘likeable rogues’ as each one of them seemed to take a nicely concealed disappointment as their father attempts to thwart the Pirates intentions to marry  them. Enter the long awaited local ( well, transported!) Police Force, as the echoes of Taran- tarah…(Sp?) herald the entrance from the auditorium of the motley crew of constables ably led by Sergeant of Police ( Clive Swetman) their songs always add a welcome touch of almost slapstick humour to the proceedings as they proceed to ‘go or not go’ to do battle with the Pirates. ( What... no ‘twitching moustaches?’). The ensuing ‘battle to the death’ was a trifle disappointing, but no matter as the end in true G and S fashion, with all, well most, parties living happily ever after as the pirates yield to the name of good  old Queen Victoria bringing a somewhat unlikely and surprisingly speedy end to the ‘bloodshed’ as all are revealed as noblemen of the realm who have ‘gorn Wrong!’…

  All of this was supported by an excellent small but very live orchestra and an innovative set working well on different levels and with some imaginative touches to enable the show to move smoothly through its varying scenes. Costumes were nicely different but captured the mood of this all time favourite for loyal G and S followers.    All in all a very imaginative and entertaining  show which I am sure was as much enjoyed by the cast as the audience and that always translates to a successful run. I am sure we all look forward to a voyage next year on ‘HMS Pinafore’ and the ‘Trial by Jury’. Well done to the whole team and thank you for your excellent hospitality, I was truly treated as a VIP.