Edinburgh Fringe 2013
"DULOG return to the Fringe this summer with the Gilbert and Sullivan classic Pirates of Penzance. This comic opera follows Frederic, recently freed from his apprenticeship to a crew of tender-hearted pirates, and his romance with Mabel, all set against a backdrop of beautiful maidens and a very modern Major General."
This is a pleasing production from Durham University, with just the right mix of comedy and operetta oomph. The staging is simple and the set requires just a basket and a flag to set us in a world of Navy and pirate life. Indeed that is the big strength of this production: it is left to some neat and often hilarious choreopgraphy, and some tight theatricality to lift this into a show that packs plenty of energy and clever wit.
The singing is uniformly good and the chorus strong as an ensemble. What’s needed here is a bit of voice training in delivering tenor from the tummy and really hitting the back of the theatre with sound.
There’s plenty of creatively realised humour here as well and when a young production is as accomplished and gutsy as this, they can be forgiven for being a little musically and theatrically rough around the edges. Timing isn’t always pitch perfect and members of the chorus occasionally run out of breath and singing tails off a bit. Yet at the core of the production is a decent narrative flow and a pirate’s chest full of fun and musical comedy. Oh, and our modern major general doesn’t slip a syllable!
I was also impressed with some of the lead singing which could easily grace the London professional stage. The audience enjoyed this version very much (many were clearly fans) and the cast delivered at 100% which created an infectious enthusiasm and wish to engage in our back row seats. I saw plenty of smiles, heard even more laughs and there were also tender moments which created gentle silence. So, all around, a strong production from a very capable cast working together more tightly than you often see in youth or university musical theatre on the Fringe.
If you are looking for a young and vibrant take in this Gilbert and Sullivan classic then you won’t go wrong here. I enjoyed every minute but also valued the focus of the whole cast and their ability to deliver some highly creditable operetta.