H.M.S. Pinafore

Aug 28 2015 | By More

★★★☆☆   Shipshape

Paradise in Augustines (Venue 152): Mon 24 – Sat 29 August 2015

There is a straightforward likeability to Cat Like Tread’s H.M.S. Pinafore that helps it to overcome some less confident moments.

Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1878 tale of the gallant men of the British Navy and the women who love them was their first international hit and very much set the template for what was to follow.

The company. Photo Cat-like Tread

The company. Photo Cat-like Tread

The story of Josephine, the captain’s daughter who loves humble seaman Ralph Rackstraw but has been promised in marriage to Sir Joseph Porter, First Lord of the Admiralty, retains much of its charm. The concerns of the story can pass over the heads of audiences, however, with questions of who is best qualified to lead a navy ruling over a vast Empire being of little modern interest.

A packed basement in Augustine United Church, as well as having some unhelpful sightlines, has a rather unforgiving acoustic. The male performers in particular were singing at the further extent of their range too often, and seemed to swallow their words as a result. One particular duet had the back rows giving up on hearing the words at all.

John-James Colvin’s Rackstraw sometimes strains to the reach the high notes but is commendably clear and is thoroughly likeable. This contrasts effectively with Keith Starsmeare’s suitably villainous Dick Deadeye.

pleasing comic presence

Tom Paton’s delivery as Captain Corcoran was particularly understated and diffident at first, but he grew noticeably stronger. He also has a pleasing comic presence, as does David Ross (Sir Joseph Porter) who never quite overcame the problems of being heard from the back.

No such problems for the female leads, with Alexandra Pittock’s Josephine particularly forceful. Rae Lamond is a nicely judged Little Buttercup, while Debora Ruiz-Kordova’s Cousin Hebe is so striking that it is unfortunate she does not have more to do.

The same could be said for the whole female chorus of ‘sisters, cousins and aunts,’ who are noticeably strong, although the males are not far behind. The chorus numbers are the best parts of the evening by far, bowling along merrily. David Manderson’s piano provides the entire musical backing with unflagging enthusiasm.

Sarah Whitty’s direction is mainly straightahead and traditional, which reinforces the fact that many of the objects of satire in the piece have disappeared under the sands of time. There are a couple of modern touches – a kilted Rackstraw expressing indignation the first time For He Is An Englishman crops up (which works very well) and an extended bout of texting (which doesn’t).

This dedication to letting the story be told means that the production can recover from an occasional lack of clarity, and entertain those large audiences who are clearly still hungry for G and S at the Fringe.

Running time 1 hour 30 minutes
Paradise in Augustines (Venue 152), Augustine United Church, 41 George IV Bridge, EH1 1EL
Monday 24 – Saturday 29 August 2015
Daily at 7.25 pm
Book tickets on the EdFringe website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/h-m-s-pinafore
Company Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CatLikeTread

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