The model of a modern operetta

Contraband secrets: The Pirate King, John Savournin with Pirate'sMaid Ruth, Sylvia Clarke

The Pirates of Penzance

Wolverhampton Grand


THERE is something particularly English about Gilbert & Sullivan, occupying the seaside, end of the pier realms of opera just as panto lives in the sillier end of theatre.

And the Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company are helping to ensure that our nation’s contribution to operatic daftness is preserved with find productions such as this lively Pirates.

The company was formed 20 years ago for the first International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival in Buxton with some original members of the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company as principals and an amateur chorus.

Twenty years on the company is fully professional and this year has embarked on its first tour on its way to open and close the 21st G&S festival in Harrogate in August when it will present four productions in 10 performances.

Incidentally David Steadman was in charge of music for that first performance of Yeoman of the Guard in 1994 and last night was still there, conducting excellent The National Festival Orchestra.

Director John Savournin has done a good job in keeping what is a 135 year-old operetta fresh as a daisy helped by a little tweak of dialogue here and there and some great comic moments, particularly from the excellent Richard Gauntlett as Major General Stanely, a rather model soldier one might add.

 In the rapid I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General he did not put a word wrong and most were clearly audible, which is no mean feat singing at that speed while he produced some lovely touches incluing a second act dance.

Full marks as well to choreographer Damian Czarnecki who managing to get 10 sisters and ten pirates moving as one while giving the Chorus of Police an amusing air of Keystone Cops about them, even producing squirrel glove puppets as part of a disguise at one point.


Savournin, doubles up as The Pirate King, looking for all intents and purposes, like Captain Hook from Peter Pan, showing a decent voice an a swashbuckling manner while Frederic, played by Nick Allen, is our somewhat wimpy hero who has been apprenticed to a pirate by mistake.

Allen makes a decent fist out of being a decent chap, bound by duty even when the paradox of birth is revealed which extends his apprenticeship to 84 years!

He has a pleasant voice particularly in duets with the Pirate King and his one true love Mabel, beautifully sung by Elinor Moran who leads an exceptional chorus of her ten sisters who were always acting, whether pulling faces, taking to each other or reacting. Nice to see a chorus where no one is walk on scenery.

Bruce Graham gives us a man who knows he has lost before he starts in the Sergeant of Police leading his amusing constabulary while there is good support from the sisters, the pirates and Matthew Kellett as the Pirate King’s trusted right had man, Samuel, as well as Sylvia Clarke as Ruth, the Pirate maid of all work, although perhaps her sound could be looked at as her words came out a bit muffled.

The set design is simple letting the still clever words speak for the performance in what is a thoroughly entertaining evening. To 28-06-14

Roger Clarke

The company stage Pirates again 0n 25-06-14, then Iolanthe on Thursday and Friday before ending their visit to the Grand with The Mikado on Saturday, 28-06-14.


And from the poop deck . . .


SHIVER me timbers, this outstanding company opened a week-long visit to the Black Country with a joyful performance of Pirates, awash with clever British humour.

The extremely talented cast didn’t miss a trick in the amusing tale set on a rocky seashore in Cornwall, and Damian Czarnecki’s choreography lit up the production, particularly with the chorus of girls and the hilarious scene featuring Sergeant of Police Bruce Graham and his terrified cops.

Nick Allen sang well as young Frederic, the slave of duty mistakenly attached to a pirate instead of a pilot by the family nursemaid Ruth (Sylvia Clarke), and the fun really starts when his ‘apprenticeship’ comes to an end and a paradox is revealed.

A fine performance from director John Savournin as the Pirate King, whose gang of cutthroats have a soft spot when it comes to fighting orphans,  is matched by Richard Gauntlett’s skill in the role of Major-General Stanley, ten of whose unmarried daughters wore specs . . . and we never discovered why.

Elinor Moran was a delight as Mabel who fell in love with Frederic. Her singing of Poor Wand’ring One proved to be one of many highlights.

The company stage Iolanthe on Thursday and Friday before ending their visit to the Grand with The Mikado on Saturday.

Paul Marston 


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