Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Buccaneering bikers


Julian Bissell, The Pirate King on his bike with his band of bikers, Frederic, Tom Dalton, left and, centre, Ruth, Glynis Leaman, and John Clay's long arm of the law

The Pirates of Penzance

Tinker’s Farm Opera

The Crescent Theatre


TINKER’S Farm have been . . . well . . . tinkering, so the Pirates of Penzance are not so much swashbucklers as the Gilbert and Sullivan rather civilised chapter of Hell’s Angels.

Which, as the operetta is set in 1879, means a 15 year wait for them before the first motorbike appears, but who cares, its gives an imaginative, modern twist to what is a traditional production, with an opportunity for some visual humour and enough tattoos to cover a tennis court.

Tinker’s Farm seem to have had a new lease of life with this bright, cheerful, enjoyable production. It is helped by having strong leads. Bella Harris as Mabel a particular find, and choruses both large enough and loud enough to earn their keep.

First nights have their own pressures but if the first act had any mishaps they were not obvious and come the second act you could see and hear confidence growing.

Director Jessica Dalton has done a fine job keeping things moving along and creating a series of vignettes on the seafront of Penzance behind a scrim during the overture was a masterstroke, giving the excellent orchestra under Musical Director Arthur Wrench a chance to flex their muscles and the audience a chance to get into the swing of things.

The story is simple Frederic, a bit of a wimp, played by fifth year Birmingham University medical student Tom Dalton, has been mistakenly become an apprentice pirate instead of pilot after an error by his nurse Ruth. I suppose he should be thankful he was not an apprentice parrot.

But at 21 he is free of his indentures and can marry his new love Mabel, sung by Bella Harris. Except there is a paradox – which is the crux of the whole plot – which means Frederic will not be free of his duties as a pirate until 1940.major general

Harris, who trained with the National Youth Choir of Great Britain, is a music scholar – and current Gilbert and Sullivan Society President – at Birmingham University and has a lovely powerful, voice, clear as a bell and hitting all the high notes with no sign of strain or, to be honest, little sign of effort. A delightful performance.

Dalton also is a member of the society and has a pleasing light tenor voice which blends well with Harris.

John Leaman as Major-General Stanley with the twins among his multitude of daughters

Glynis Leaman quickly grew into her role as Ruth playing her as a sort of glamorous granny, who at 47, is trying to convince Frederic, who has yet to see any other woman, or more pertinently, girls, that she is the one for him.

John Leaman, chairman of TFO, leads from the front as Major-General Stanley, having sung I am the very model of a model major general I know what goes in to keeping brain and mouth in step in G&S tongue twisters and he did an excellent job as well as displaying a military bearing.

TFO stalwart Julian Bissell, in his motorbike leathers, is a rumbustious Pirate King, his third time in the role, and weighs in with a hefty baritone while lower down the vocal scale we have the fine bass of John Clay as Sergeant of Police bemoaning that a policemen’s lot is not a happy one. Incidentally, this is John’s 55th year of appearing in amateur and professional productions.

There is good support from Ben Cuffin-Munday as Samuel, the Pirate King’s lieutenant as well as the General’s daughters Edith, Alison Needham, Kate, Sonya Williams and Isabel, Philippa Goyal.

Which brings us to the choruses, the daughters, the pirates and the police. Tinker’s Farm are not alone among amateur companies in that suggested ages and available cast do not always correlate, but what the choruses lack in age authenticity they make up for in both volume and animation.

All too often the cast in crowd scenes are a mix of statues and furniture when they are not singing but here director Jessica Dalton has got her crowds acting like people, looking like a real crowd with their own little scenes all over the stage.

As for the singing, you certainly knew they were there as they belted it out, in tune and well balanced with words you could hear.

There was nothing timid about this lot, which is a credit to both them and whoever cracked the whip at rehearsals – in itself not an easy task with a big cast of 37.

A mention too for Martin Hudson, responsible for the good sound and Peter Laver’s lighting as well as the people, including cast, responsible for costumes.

The director has kept scenery to a minimum with just two backcloths, one Penzance and the other the chapel ruins, which is no bad thing as there are no hold-ups for scene changes and the show is able to develop its own rhythm to carry everything along into an entertaining evening. To 02-04-15

Roger Clarke


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