Hearty endeavours

Mar 17 2016 | By More

Eusog look deep for Pirate procedure

Eusog’s production of The Pirates of Penzance this week is promised to contain a strong line in modernisation, as has become a tradition with the company’s Gilbert and Sullivan shows,

After they moved last year’s production of Gondoliers from Venice to Oxbridge and into the modern era, the promise of a more modern style of comedy, aiming to “push the company’s boundaries” is an intriguing one.

Pirates - photo Oliver Buchanan Photography

Pirates in rehearsal – photo Oliver Buchanan Photography

The Pirates of Penzance is the most popular of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operas. The comedy revolves around a crew of orphan pirates who are as sensitive as they are fierce and cowardly as they are handsome.

It is certainly ripe for modernisation, as the crew is run on the sort of rules you might find for a late Victorian business with indentured crew members and the like, not to mention a lawyer’s attention to finicky detail.

Taking on the updating is director Charlie Ralph, whose forays into the world of comedy have come both inside and outwith Edinburgh University circles. He was a member of The Edinburgh Revue and also does improv comedy with a group called Viking Longboat.

“Becoming trained in making anything funny on the spot and adapting humour to any situation has been particularly helpful for Pirates,” he told Æ. “The kind of classical humour in that show is not the kind of thing most directors would typically be used to working with.”

the what and the why

It is intriguing to learn, then, what Ralph brings to a plot which depends on the hook that one of the pirates, Frederick, is due to leave their company as he reaches his maturity at the age of 21. Only to discover that as he was born on the leap day of a leap year, he has technically only had four birthdays and will have to stay on for rather longer.

Policemen. Photo Oliver Buchanan Photography

Policemen – in rehearsal. Photo Oliver Buchanan Photography

“When most people attempt to modernise work they often think that the most important thing to change is the where and when,” he says. “I believe it is more important to look at the what and why.

“Gilbert and Sullivan’s views are a little outdated and the story’s traditional sensibilities don’t lend themselves well to a modern audience,” he continues.

“In my production I have attempted to stay true to the origins and roots of the story – while updating some of the characters and motivations. Don’t worry though, all the language is true to the original, there won’t be any mentioning of Made In Chelsea or The Only Way Is Essex.”

With a show filled with colourful characters; from Frederic himself to Ruth, the handmaiden desperate to become a pirate, and assortments of pirates, maidens and policemen who lot is not always a happy one, how has Ralph helped his cast of 22 translate their satire for a modern audience?

“I have become very used to working relentlessly on individual one-line jokes, to make them as funny as possible” he says, “I have tried to bring that attention to detail to Pirates.

“In addition I have taught the cast a lot about the willingness to humiliate oneself and be the butt of jokes in order to increase the humour.”

The proof of Ralph’s endeavours are revealed at the Pleasance Theatre all this week. What ever the success of his own updating, he is very aware of the importance of the creative team his is part of, including choreographer Meera Pundya and musical director Will Briant.

All three are new to the company and, as Charlie Ralph acknowledges: “Eusog are showing how bold they are by giving us all a chance to lend new voices to a company favourite.”


The Pirates of Penzance
Pleasance Theatre 60 The Pleasance, EH8 9TL
Tuesday 15 – Saturday 19 March
Evenings: 7.30pm; Matinee Sat: 2.30pm.
Tickets from: www.sparkseat.com/


Tags: , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.