27 Feb

PIRATES OF Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan at Wilton’s Music Hall

A comedy Jewel in a perfect setting.
The Songs of Gilbert and Sullivan are so well known to most of us – of a certain age – who have had them thrust down our throats at school. The problem is that for many years, the operas were restricted to the Carl Rosa Opera Company and were not allowed to be changed in any way. The humour of the 1880s is not necessarily compatible with the minds of the 20th century. Luckily the copyright restrictions came to an end and from then on many musical theatre companies have performed versions of these delightful entertainments.

Sasha Regan the director had drawn on her youthful reminiscences of school productions. A boys school production had boys playing all roles including the females and she has created an evening of positive delights. We begin with songs of the pirates with Ruth the sole female member of the pirate troupe played by Allan Richardson in a skirt.  Ruth believes Frederic Tom Senior) will find her beautiful as he has never seen a woman before. But when the girls arrive – the daughters of the Very Modern Major General (David McKechnie) they are a plethora of beautiful boys in frocks singing soprano, then it is that the comedy and the romance really take off.

When I first heard about this production many years ago. I didn’t want to see it as I imagined a whole lot of drag artists, but there was nothing like that. These are boys in boys haircuts, in dresses doing their best to be coy little maids and it is very funny and altogether delightful.

As for the supremely natural characterisations, I was reminded of Steve Coogan in his character of Alan Partridge who could so easily be a character straight out of G and S.

But what is extra special is the setting in the old Music Hall that was built for this kind of entertainment.  I went along with a friend who has taken part in the opera before with another company and he was excited to see it at Wilton’s.”A jewel in a perfect setting” was his reaction. 

The performances are all huge fun, each of the pirates and each of the daughters is a star in his own right so I can only mention the main soloists. Frederic, of course, the unfortunate young man, released from pirate hood and ready to do his civic duty to prosecute the pirates, when he finds he is still apprenticed to them and he would have to hang himself. His love affair with the Major General’s daughter Mabel (Tom Bales) would be impossible as the great man couldn’t let his daughter marry a pirate – certainly not a hanged one.

Of course, along with some dotty policemen (whose lot, of course, is not a happy one) they find a way out of it and the General doesn’t have to hang his son in law.

Is that a spoiler?. I think not – we all know it mustn’t end in tears. It is a truly magical experience –  witty words,  joyous tunes, delightful performances and an exciting setting.  I am so glad I’ve seen it.


  1. alinewaites March 10, 2019 at 10:09 am #

    Of course it was…my mistake…apologies to both.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: