H.M.S. Pinafore

March 22, 2017 | By | Reply More

★★★☆☆    Studiedly frivolous

Assembly Roxy: Tue 21 – Sat 25 March 2017
Review by Thom Dibdin

Flirty and frivolous, Edinburgh University Savoy Opera Group’s H.M.S. Pinafore, at the Assembly Roxy to Saturday, sees the company mustering its resources well.

The result is an evening that is memorable for its entertainment and for a light, but telling, underlining Gilbert’s of well-aimed swipes at both class prejudice and the English ruling class’s insular belief that Britain exists to serve English interests.

The cast of HMS Pinafore. Photo Eusog

But the most part of this is jollity, fun and a couple of pretty splendid arias.

Director Holly Marsden’s big idea is to bring Gilbert and Sullivan bang up to date and set this as the on-board entertainment on maiden voyage of modern cruise ship.

It sort of works, too. The whole sets off with a pretty light touch as George Rogers – as the MC of the Pinafore’s entertainment team – welcomes everyone on board and exhorts them to whoop and holler. But it really needs a lot more application to the details – above some rather splendid bits of set design.

What’s best about it, is that it allows the company to give a modern twist to the jokes and patter. It also makes the arrival of Sir Joseph Porter, First Lord of the Admiralty, with a coterie of admiring aunts and cousins a lot easier to swallow. Resplendent in mirrored shades, Angus Bhattacharya duly gives him all the necessary plumped-up ego of one elevated to a position for which he has absolutely no qualifications.

Sir Joseph’s reason for arriving on board is the captain’s daughter Josephine, who is sung Livi Wollaston in what turns out to be the stand-out vocal performance of the evening. Her voice is wonderfully clear at the top of her range, if needing a bit more work to find power in lower registers, and she really does the music the justice it deserves.

suitably ineffectual

Of course, her father Captain Corcoran would love her to to fall for Sir Joseph. And Nathaniel Fosyth’s suitably ineffectual Corcoran does his best to push the match through. Even though Sir Joseph would have to be marrying so far below his station. Neither Forsyth nor Bhattacharya have the strongest of voices, but they never hold back and use them to good effect.

H.M.S. Pinafore. The chorus dancing. Photo: Eusog

But Josephine loves another, lowly deck hand Ralph Rackstraw, innovatively sung as a trousers role by Brett McCarthy Harrop. It might have been forced on the company, but it works well. Their duets are some of the best in the show, while Harrop and Wollaston find a few moments of real tenderness amidst the general mayhem.

Talya Steinberg puts in another strong performance as Little Buttercup, the elderly quay-side peddler with a dark secret, pulling out the theatrical side of the show nicely. Her noticeable American accent does impinge slightly, but only because of all the chat about Englishness.

In which regard, Kirsten Miller is a satisfyingly peculiar Bill Bobstay, the boatswain. It’s not a big role, although demanding a lot of work in the chorus, but the boatswain does get a scene where they are praising the state of being English to the high heavens. And to have it done in a broadly Scottish accent is a nice directorial touch, well performed, too.

Marsden is less consistently successful in her wielding of the chorus as a whole. There is some good work, the enunciation is clear and the choreography is fun – although there are too many occasions where the dancing is a bit on the wayward side.

MD Sam Coade can’t mask an occasional thinness to the band, but they will no doubt come together more over the week. And he keeps the drive going throughout.

Running time: two hours (including an interval)
Assembly Roxy, 2 Roxburgh Place, EH 9SU.
Tuesday 21 – Saturday 25 March 2017
Evenings: 7.30pm; Matinee Sat: 2.30pm.
Tickets and details: https://www.sparkseat.com/events/eusog-hms-pinafore

EUSOG website: http://www.eusog.org/
EUSOG on Facebook: eusavoy
EUSOG on Twitter: @EUSOG

ENDS

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