THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE
Trinity Methodist at the Civic Theatre
Forget the Cornish coast and the ruined chapel – curtain up here is on a dusty storeroom in a museum. 21st century cleaners depart, and a mummy creeps from her sarcophagus as the pirates storm on from a storage crate stage right.
It's a colourful conceit, serving the look of the show rather than the logic of an already improbable plot. But the Policemen are exhibits too, sporting uniforms through the ages, a Bow Street Runner amongst their ranks. And best of all, the ladies all get to impersonate heroines from history: Earheart the aviatrix rubbing shoulders with Nell Gwynn and Lady Godiva.
Sullivan's music survives intact, with Anton Archer's impressive pit band playing Richard Balcombe's charming reduction, and a lovely Poetry chorale, but Gilbert is slyly updated, with our Home Secretary making the policemen's lot even unhappier, and Climbing Over Rocky Mountain, already a rewrite from the Gods in Thespis, adapted to suit the Famous Women.
Several seasoned Savoyards in the cast, including David Raynor as an imposing Pirate King, Janet Moore as poor rejected Ruth and Mick Wilson as a drily droll Major General. But what joy to have Frederick and Mabel [a suffragette] played by actors of the right age, two excellent young performers [Theo Perry and Jessica Edom-Carey] who sing beautifully and act with style and wit.
Tony Brett's production has many delightful moments – the chorus in cupboard and crate, a Busby Berkeley Foeman, and a much-used table downstage right. An inspired choice to celebrate 50 years of Trinity, during which time they've brought dozens of Savoy operettas to appreciative Chelmsford audiences.
production photograph by Val Scott