STEAM-PUNK PIRATES OF PENZANCE
Brentwood Operatic Society at the Brentwood Theatre
Steam-punk Pirates ? Whatever next !
We weren't sure what to expect, but Alli Smith's take on G&S turned out to be enormous fun, the familiar operetta constantly undermined by unexpected twists and off-the-wall inventiveness.
A stripped-back stage, and a single piano. The singing all unplugged. A distinct dearth of even light operatic voices – the honourable exception being Marcia Alderson's pretty-in-pink Mabel, who not only gave the pirate apprentice a run for his money but also handled her coloratura with stylish ease.
But the performances were assured and amusing, from Sarah Mayes' desperate Ruth to Dean Mobley's Samuel – a great creation, this, think Smike/Baldrick with an eye-patch.
Alastair McIlwraith was an imposing Pirate King, Ian Southgate an amazing Slave of Duty, Depp wig and designer stubble, bumping and grinding while giving full value to the comedy and the melody.
A round of applause for the Union Jack tunic of Martin Harris's Major-General [a onesie for his Act Two night attire]. A hilarious characterization, including an accelerando patter song with some new rhymes for old.
The “alarming costumes” were great-coats and goggles for the Pirates, brightly coloured bustiers and taffeta for the “Sisters” [cousins and aunts too, like that infernal nonsense Pinafore] and for the robotic Force something reminiscent of Blake's 7 but with light sabres.
For we are in 2157, and poor Frederick will not come of age until 2220. Queen Victoria is long forgotten, the monarch serenaded in the finale is presumably the great-grand-daughter of George VII …
The Musical Director was Patrick Tucker, with Adrian Ure at the piano.