The Pirates of Penzance

Date 4th May 2017
Society Battle Amateur Theatrical Society
Venue Battle Memorial Hall
Type of Production G & S Opera
Director Bob Murray
Musical Director Richard Eldridge


Author: Anne Lawson

It was after all opening night, so numbers were not great but as usual had a warm welcome with a different idea this show: offering programmes as complimentary but requesting if desired, donations to a very worthy charity Water Wings to assist children with cerebral palsy swimming.

Interesting colourful artwork featuring all aspects of the story created by Jon Higham.

After the introductory overture from competent 9-piece orchestra under direction of Richard Eldridge, also on piano, the opening picture of Pirate King, Adrian Collins, looked and sounded imposing, standing proud, sword drawn as his ship sailed onto the stage. Perfectly dressed in black, sporting his ‘own grown’ beard, the tale unravelled with Don Young as earringed Samuel and the Pirates, young Frederic and his old nursery maid Ruth (Libby Montagu-Grainger). The pirates are not having a profitable time and being orphans vow never to rob another orphan. Whilst noisily partying, apprentice pirate Frederic reminds them his obligations to the gang will soon be over nearing his 21st and he wishes to become an honest citizen, and he’ll have to destroy them. To get their own back they give him Ruth and as he’s not seen any other women he assumes ‘she to be a fine figure of a woman’ and may take her for his wife!  Ruth explains it’s her mistake he became a pirate and he should have been a pilot!

Frederic realises he’s been deceived and rejects Ruth. Enter girls ‘climbing over rocky mountains’ Informing them he’s a pirate, but not for long, he falls for young Mabel, asks her to marry him. A most amusing version of this popular opera produced admirably by Bob Murray, self-confessed non G & S aficionado, and together with Richard and Lee’s support the cast were well drilled in both movement, grouping and song. Unusual casting of ladies as policemen wielding their truncheons and a very convincing lady pirate too!

The easy on the eye set designed by Bob Murray and Brian Grainger, was both constructed and painted by Brian G and David Horne. Black flats and four rock cliffs. Props well used – amusing pieces like the striped deckchair and cool bag, barrels, smaller rocks for perching on.  The swash buckling was well actioned and boat and rigging worked very well. The baronial grey stone walls, home of the ancestors with headstones looked effective and was well lit by Gary Crawford, with Adam and Chris Packham responsible for sound.

With Libby heading the wardrobe, costumes throughout were first class. The reference to George at Asda didn’t go unnoticed! I particularly liked the variety of pirate outfits – especially the Johnnie Depp look, the kilt, the use of sashes, Margaret Amey’s tail coat and top hat with ribbons - great.  Boots correct, but being fussy the foil buckles on some shoes were too obvious, particularly Frederic’s.  Ladies looked delightful in their light summery frocks, bonnets, with the governesses quite prim with lace topknots. Ruth’s hitched skirt, jacket and tricorn with feather finish perfect.  Good period underwear, nightdresses, and nightshirt. A great set of police costumes complete with white spats and truncheons with the number well synchronised and lovely head movements above the blacks effective and most amusing.

Principals gave good performances, with better clarity when performing towards the front of the stage.  Good pairing and duets with Natasha Dallaway as a lovely Mabel prettily dressed in blue playing opposite Chris Packham as the young Frederic. Most encouraging to see new members Lucy Bishop as Edith and May Harrison as Kate enjoying taking juvenile roles. A strong male chorus and harmonious ladies made for an excellent supporting ensemble. Stage management was tight.

All round a good opening night shown by the ‘in time’ applause of approval from the small audience, who perhaps were a little inhibited in their laughter.