Regent's Park Theatre
Urban pirates in the park!
Is it Gilbert or is it Sullivan, the treasure
presented by the Pirates of Penzance? At
Regents Park Theatre in the open air the
(amplified) words get closest attention. But, of
course they are inseparable twins, G and S.
Its tunes that you come out humming, even
if Steven Ediss incredibly economical
arrangement for this 1980 Joe Papp New York
Central Park version is hard on Sullivan.
It uses eight instrumentalists, two with
versatile electronic keyboards, including the
excellent musical director, Catherine Jayes
as in last years memorably energetic
staging by Ian Talbot, of which this version,
with new sets and different costumes, is a close
cousin. Singing may not be the whole point. But
even in Victorian punning rhyming rap, the patter
of tiny words benefits from firmer voices.
Sullivans sturdy thread deserves better.
Its wonderful theatrical gamesmanship. All
the gently satirical elements are deliciously
unfading: nursemaid Ruths ludicrous mistake
indenturing Fred as an apprentice pirate, his
leap-year birthday, the revelation that the
pirates are just peers who have gone wrong, a
topical arrow scoring bulls-eye laughs.
Mabel (Karen Evans) may sound a bit Minnie Mouse
when shes at a high climax. But we
shouldnt be too snooty about the singing,
even if quality is vocally down a notch. Su
Pollards far from plain Ruth manages her
numbers very nicely.
The ensemble is robust. Gary Wilmots
ultra-friendly Pirate King, all thumbs with a
rapier except when hes into
sword-swallowing, is more relaxed than David
Alders whiskery, slightly uptight Major
Joshua Dallass engaging grinning Fred has a
ball, though his slavery to duty is more than a
little tongue in cheek. When the Sergeant (Giles
Taylor) thinks of strategic withdrawal but
realises "Its too late now", his
style evokes Kenneth Williams. Theres
nothing plodding about the arresting balletic
footwork of constabulary duty in Penzance.
This Is London 2001