Brentwood Operatic Theatre’s set design was minimalistic but effective. Added to the fact that the accompaniment was just the one piano, played expertly by Adrian Ure, and that the cast had no microphones, it made for a quite authentic version of this G&S classic. So I waited, with a degree of anticipation and trepidation, to see how it would be made ‘futuristic’ and have to say that apart from the appearance of some space age looking guns, light-up truncheons (lightsabers?) for the police force and the colourful and varied costumes for the chorus of sisters, there was little ‘futuristic’ about it, not that I actually think this was a bad thing.
Ian Southgate played the lead role of Frederic with conviction and style, singing confidently showing an excellent range. Frederick’s love interest, Mabel, was played by Marcia Alderson whose singing was excellent. Completing the love triangle was Sarah Mayes as Ruth, who played the role with strong characterisation.
Playing the other key roles in the show were Alastair McIlwraith as a confident and strong Pirate King, Mick Kiel as a cowering and scared Sergeant of Police and Martin Harris as a calm, comical and confident Major-General Stanley, all of whom played their roles expertly.
The Chorus of Sisters were extremely diverse in appearance, each being dressed in one particular colour and having their own specific characters. Sisters of note were the lady in red and the lady in green whose specific characters were very well acted.
The Chorus of Pirates were also strong in their own specific characterisations with Dean Mobley being incredibly entertaining in his role of Samuel, who even when not specifically involved in the action drew the attention of the audience with his well-timed comedic performances.
The Police Force was made up of members of the pirate and sister choruses and, much like Dean, there was one cast member whose characterisation drew the audience’s attention being incredibly funny. I am not sure of the cast member who this was, but it was one of the female cast members.
Musically numbers of note, for me, were I Am The Very Model Of A Modern Major-General, both with Martin Harris’ lead and the companies accompaniment, When A Felon’s Not Engaged In His Employment, Hail Poetry in the Finale of Act 1, and all of the duets between Frederic and Mabel.
One aspect of the show that I thoroughly enjoyed was the breaking of the fourth wall by various cast members throughout the show, whether it was the looks and small gestures, the interaction between the Major-General and Patrick Tucker the Musical Director, the comments and indeed the thrusting of Ian Southgate!
Overall, I enjoyed this version of The Pirates of Penzance and look forward to the next production of Brentwood Operatic Society, 9 to 5 which will show in October, with interest.