For the boys: The Pirates of Penzance @WiltonMusicHall

It’s still a man’s world in Cornwall. Or so it is in Sasha Reagan’s all-male version of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance. Ten years on from it’s first presentation, the show is still full of humour, energy and resourcefullness. And staged among the period features of Wilton’s Music Hall, it's a perfect match.

Over the years I’ve missed all the all-male cast versions staged by the Union Theatre. There’s been Iolanthe, The Mikado and HMS Pinafore. Which is too bad. What they lack in feminine presence they make up with in comic timing, energy and vigour. The show never misses a chance to bring out the humour in the situation, while still remaining largely faithful to the original material.

It’s a resourceful production too. Simple props like a broom turn into a horse. Which is then fed a carrot. In a most amusing way.A ladder and some fabric become a pirate ship on the high seas (or at least on English Chanel). And no doubt the all-male cast doubling as both the pirates and the ladies keeps things economical too. 

Gender fluidity now also appears to be a topic worthy for exploration. The National Theatre’s When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other, explored it for a relentless and grim two hours. Here it’s done with a lighter touch and greater physicality you’d expect with a bunch of blokes.  With hairy chests and heavy perspiration you’re never in doubt you’re watching men on stage. But it’s men exploring their feminine side. And being as camp as Christmas in doing so. 

Under the musical direction of Richard Baker there’s some fine singing across the ensemble. And the cast members hit some impressive high notes too. Tom Senior is a dashing Frederic with his deadpan expressions, brawn and tenor voice. Alan Richardson is a delight as Mabel, the older woman of the piece. And David McKechnie as the Major-General pulls off the patter-singing with style. And when they come together for the rousing choruses they’re incredible.

Directed by Sasha Reagan, The Pirates of Penzance is at Wiltons Music Hall until March 16.


Photos by Scott Rylander

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