Review: HMS Pinafore

Image credit: Theo Heymann

As one of the hugely popular Savoy operas written and composed by Victorian-era duo Gilbert and Sullivan, HMS Pinafore promised an entertaining evening of comedy and music on its opening night. The plot, which revolves around a love story between the captain’s daughter and one of the crewmen aboard the eponymous navy vessel, is relatively uncomplicated and leaves a great deal to the production to deliver on this promise. Under the direction of Zoe Morris, this rendition is able to achieve this to a large extent, although various problems prevent it from working as well as it could have done.

The technical elements were well-executed overall. The set design is simple, but that is probably for the best since more would have cluttered the stage with a cast so large. The contrast between the raised quarterdeck and the foreyard (where most of the action takes place) had the function of serving as a spatial reminder of the class and rank divisions which is the main theme of the play, and was a nice touch. The use of lighting was also generally successful, and a variety of effects were employed to set the mood and accompany the musical scores. However, some of these effects tended to drag on for too long, and deducted from the liveliness of the numbers. 

As a comedic opera, the success of the show owes much to the orchestra, who were outstanding from the overture until the final number. On stage, the show is carried by the terrific performances of the leading parts, and some of these deserve special mention. Tiffany Charnley as Josephine uses her remarkable vocal range to give emotional depth to the comedy, and she is complemented in that role by Max Noble playing Ralph Rackstraw, who carries himself with poise on stage, even though he sometimes fails to get his voice over the orchestra. But it is Luke Thomas as Captain Corcoran and Michael Morrison as Sir Joseph who really raise the show to the next level; they were exceptional in almost every aspect and elevated the performance of those around them with their effortless movement and delivery.

However, the show did stumble during scenes involving a large number of the supporting cast. There were some lapses in the delivery which prevented the visual and auditory elements from coming together in the same way as they did when the main characters were involved, and at times also created noticeable dissonance between the orchestra and the singing.

In the end, however, this rendition of HMS Pinafore was able to live up to the reputation of its name. At two hours long, the best testament to the show’s success was its ability to hold the attention of the audience throughout the whole time, and left almost everyone pleased with the array of outstanding singing and acting presented in a most elegant way.


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