The Pirates of Penzance

Date 13th November 2021
Society Eastbourne G & S Society
Venue Devonshire Park Eastbourne
Type of Production G&S
Director Trevor Allen Asst. Director: Rowan Stanfield
Musical Director Russell Ablewhite
Choreographer Rowan Stanfield and Lucy Sarsfield


Author: Anne Lawson

Surprised to see an almost empty orchestra pit, the wonderful overture was conducted by Russell and played by skilled musician Lee Dewsnap on his incredible Yamaha EL-900 Electronic Organ. I thought this one-man band was a full orchestra! The red curtaining showed a huge skull and crossbones projection giving a good sense of pirating to come.

Rowan Stanfield and Lucy Sarsfield devised some conventional movement  based on English country dancing with some modern additions and gave the whole company an opportunity of putting their best foot forward. Combat choreography was well arranged by Rowan as cutlasses were drawn!

A good backdrop of the Cornish waters with cliff flats, barrels set around by Scenic Solutions of Eastleigh that created the rugged scene. The Stanley residence plus ancestor headstones was a perfect setting for the police and pirates hiding out - most amusing. Lighting design from Douglas Morgan made atmospheric pictures, and sound quality was good from my position.

The Stanley household was headed by Paul Eccles who certainly did prove he was the very model etc. and delivered his wordy patter song with his usual aplomb. Trained Jenny McCalmont delighted us with her  lilting high soprano voice as Mabel who gave her affections to young Frederic. The named six sisters were, bar one, performing G & S operetta for the first time and obviously enjoying the experience. Good co-ordinated action both verbally and presenting nimble footwork. Make up was subtle and hair styling quite in keeping. Particularly enjoyable their picnic scene taking tea in unison from china cups, after ‘climbing over rocky mountains’ – really well synchronised.

The dubious Penzance Pirate Band of orphans was headed by a strong Pirate King - bearded bass-baritone Richard Woodall giving a fine rendition of ‘I am a Pirate King.’ Ruth his sidekick and old nursery maid to Frederic, admits it was she that muddled ‘a pilot’ for ‘a pirate’, was most ably and energetically played by Alison King enjoying her mezzo ‘When Frederic was a lad.’ A particular favourite was the trio ‘A paradox’ well performed by the Pirate King, Ruth, and Frederic. Newcomer Oliver Price gave a confident operetta debut as Pirate Samuel with a rousing opening of ‘Pour, O pour the sherry.’

More lighthearted comedy came from ruddy faced Police Sergeant played by Tim Gordon, backed by his cowardly force. Good uniforms and truncheon waving, and the whiskers were a bonus to ‘A policeman’s lot is not a happy one.’

Young Frederic orphan pirate, having reached the age of  21 is to be released from his apprenticeship. However, with a birthday falling on 29th February – a leap year he would really only be five years old!  Lizzie Lawton took on this swash buckling debut role, gallant as both pirate and in uniform as an honest citizen and with the usual G & S topsy turvy plots ends up released and secures the hand of Mabel, with ‘Oh joy oh rapture’  a happy finale from the whole strong harmonious company.

Costumes supplied by Berenice Costumes of Stalybridge and were most colourful. Shoes and boots in keeping with the period with accessories from Helen Morbey in charge of wardrobe and  the numerous personal props. A most enjoyable experience under Trevor’s  creative direction, together with his production team.