Trinity Methodist Music and Drama at the Civic Theatre
The curtain-raiser – always the fate of this early G&S collaboration – is Trial by Jury, a welcome revival of Tony Brett's charmingly fantastical production first seen at Trinity in 2015. Good to see Wayne Carpenter moonlighting as the errant Prince, playing opposite Emily Delves' sweetly sung Cinders.
Pinafore is equally inventive and off the wall. The British warship, moored at Portsmouth Point, becomes a spacecraft in a galaxy far, far away, not unlike the Enterprise, or Captain Tempest's D'Illyria probe. But Sullivan's music survives intact, and, some cheeky tweaks apart, it's the look rather than the lyrics that is radically altered, with the crew clad in silver and scarlet space suits, and the Sisters, Cousins and Aunts elegant in fantasy frocks and wigs.
Tony Brett has assembled an impressive cast, led by soprano Jenny Haxell, who languishes with style and lilac locks as Josephine, and sings the part beautifully – her Act Two soliloquy particularly enjoyable. Her Ralph is Ashley Thompson, who despite his futuristic tinfoil space-suit is an old-fashioned light tenor. Patrick O'Brien, who plays the learned judge before the interval, excels again as a leering Dick Deadeye. Janet Moore makes a lovely Buttercup, here relinquishing her bumboat for a tea-trolley stocked with Pringles. Her palm-reading duet with Howard Brooks' Captain Corcoran is splendidly done.
In the most stunning costume, Brett himself plays Sir Joseph Porter, Ruler of the Galaxy, preening and pompous but not above a bit of fancy footwork in the amusing Why and Wherefore trio. Strangely reluctant to be paired off with his cousin Hebe, Emma Byatt imposing in tight black leather.
Not much ambitious choreography elsewhere, and a deal of standing around singing. But a fresh sideways look at a Savoy favourite, accompanied by a sizeable pit orchestra, comparable to Sullivan's own, conducted by Trinity's Musical Director Gerald Hindes.
In an old Savoyard jest, I recall, some wag would enquire “Who's playing Celerity tonight?” The answer for this week at least, is Pat Hollingworth.
production photograph: Val Scott