• Fri. Apr 12th, 2024

Review: H.M.S. Pinafore

ByElla Catherall

Apr 10, 2023
Press image form HMS Pinaforte

Rating: 5 out of 5.

 HMS Pinafore is a classic Gilbert and Sullivan ‘comic opera’ about the crew and residents of the titular ship. This includes Ralph Rackstraw, a humble sailor in love with Josephine, the daughter of the ship’s Captain. The plot is kicked into gear by the arrival of the First Lord of the Admiralty, Sir Joseph Porter (Charles Barber), who is effectively betrothed to Josephine. Hilarity ensues, with the show capping off with an unexpected amount of incest.

I was fully expecting to dislike this show and be praising performances and design in spite of the material. It’s safe to say that I’m not a particular fan of opera. However, one of the characters, the dastardly Dick Deadeye (Felix Foote), falls over about 3 minutes in. From this point, it became abundantly clear that this show is essentially a 2-and-a-half-hour-long episode of ‘The Muppet Show’. As such, I had a very good time.

All the performers exhibit brilliant voices in this production. Particular praise has to go to Harry Lempriere-Johnston as the Captain, Hannah Brown as Josephine, and Gemima Iseka-Bekano as Buttercup. The comedic performances in this show are equally excellent. Charles Barber does a wonderful job of singing in his character’s voice, which sounds like a very accurate impression of Sir Didymus from ‘Labyrinth.’ In addition, the physical comedy that Owen Hatch, as Ralph, and the other sailors, are able to pull off is very, very effective.

From a design perspective, there is very little to fault. The clear highlight to me was the costume design by Ellie Anderson – there is not a single character in this show who is poorly costumed; of note were the dresses worn by Josephine and Sir Joseph Porter’s sisters, cousins and aunts. It was difficult to believe these were costumes from a student show – they looked incredible.

The one more sizable flaw that could be picked with this production is that the language used within the songs and script is a tad archaic, and so I can imagine it could be difficult to follow the plot if you hadn’t read the plot on Wikipedia first. However, it is for this very reason that I also want to draw attention to the incredible choreography of Sally Frank. Even in moments where you have absolutely no idea what a character means, the movement on stage means you’re always having a good time. Someone on stage is always doing something ridiculous, which is an utter joy. The direction by Fraser Grant must also be praised here – he has been able to turn what could be quite a foggy plot into something really quite clear and very entertaining.

Overall, I would highly, highly recommend HMS Pinafore. There are some minor flaws I could point out if I wanted to be particularly picky. However, these could fit in one set of brackets. For this reason, I see absolutely no reason not to give this show five stars. If you’re looking for a genuinely light, fun night out that will really lift your spirits, you could do far worse.

Bedlam Theatre, April 4th – April 7th

Image ‘HMS Pinafore Dress Run 7’ by Izzy Ponsford provided via Press Release