What NODA thought …
Dorothy Johnstone attended our Saturday matinée and reported on behalf of NODA:
An open stage revealed a stunning set with a group of sailors setting the scene meandering across the quarter deck of HMS Pinafore. These sailors then danced throughout the overture treating us to hornpipes and more balletic styles of dance. A novel concept which worked really well. The multi-level set with its many barrels and boxes strategically placed was used to great advantage. Although stylised in many ways in the manner of Gilbert and Sullivan there was a real freshness and originality about this production, especially in the use of props. Everything Little Buttercup sang about in her opening number was produced from her basket, inflatable ice cream cones and unicorn life belts appeared in the ever-popular “Never mind the why and wherefore”, and particularly impressive were the ever-changing hats worn by Sir Joseph Porter corresponding to his status as he climbed the ladder from office boy to ‘Ruler of the Queen’s Navy’. Clever!
The raucous group of sailors were in fine voice in the opening number and were disciplined and light-footed in their moves and routines using their hats. An appealing and sparkling Ralph Rackstraw (Geoff Lee) immediately gained the sympathy of the audience as he sang of his hopeless love for Josephine (Gillian Robertson), his captain’s daughter. There was a real rapport between these two, both convincing in conveying the turmoil of their feelings for each other in their duet “Refrain, audacious tar” and in Josephine’s aria “The hours creep on apace” which was wonderful and so effortless. Another clever touch here was the subtle setting left and right depicting rich and poor as Josephine weighs up the pros and cons of her future in matrimony. Josephine’s other suitor, Sir Joseph Porter (Robin Ożóg), gave a spirited performance with perfect diction and articulation in both spoken and sung word. Her father Captain Corcoran (Ross Main) looked well as a dignified upper-crust Captain, meaningfully expressing his emotions in the the lovely “Fair moon to thee I sing”. Good lighting added real atmosphere to this scene.
Buttercup (Liz Landsman) was obviously well loved by the crew and came across as a warm, caring woman who maintained her accent throughout and was quite mystical in her duet with Corcoran telling him that “Things are seldom what they seem” and finally revealing what she had done “A many years ago”. The motley crew members, the scheming almost loathsome Dick Deadeye (Nathan Macaulay-Dicks), Bill Bobstay (Jack Archibald) and Bob Becket (Willie Campbell), gave believable performances. Cousin Hebe doesn’t have a great deal to sing or say but Sinead Black injected real character into the part and looked quite charming.
This was a well-directed production with an accomplished principal cast and a very well vocally balanced chorus of sailors, sisters, cousins and aunts. There is certainly more for the men to do in HMS Pinafore than there is for women, but it is rare to see a bigger male then female chorus as was the case here. There was a real blend of voices in duets, ensembles and big chorus numbers, particularly in the finale of Act 1 and the rousing “He is an Englishman” where the part singing was most evident. A sympathetic orchestra supported the singers. The well-choreographed company movement and business using hats was well drilled and executed in a slick, confident manner. Colourful costumes and effective lighting enhanced this most enjoyable and well thought out production.
Thank you so much for inviting me along.