The Pirates of Penzance at the Richmond
Sasha Regan has brought her all-male cast in The Pirates of Penzance to the delightful Richmond Theatre. Largely unchanged from the 2012 run at the Hackney Empire, it still captures the essence that Gilbert and Sullivan intended, but also gives a nod to a newer audience. There are elements of the musical that might benefit from being modernised slightly, especially the setting. However, updating a classic such as this would not be without its pitfalls; the audience in the Richmond is largely above the age of 40, and may not want one of their favourites to be revamped.
What does stand out in this play is the idea of femininity, and what it means to be beautiful. Quite early on, Ruth (Alex Weatherhill) is convincing young Frederic (Samuel Nunn) that she is beautiful. Because Frederic has never seen another woman before, he takes the word of Ruth – in her mid 40s – only to scorn her for lying when he finally sees a group of other women. She is obviously the strong maternal figure for the group of pirates, but her motherly ways appear to be sacrificed for her beauty.
The stand-out acting does, in fact, come from Alex Weatherhill as Ruth, alongside Miles Western as the major general, and Neil Moores as the Pirate King – even if his trousers are a little tight. I Am the Very Model of A Modern Major General appears to be one of the most lyrically challenged songs existing in the world of music. Moores is captivating in his delivery of the song, which is equally as enticing for its complexity as it is for the tension it builds, willing the actor to get through the song with no mistakes – and he doesn’t make a single one. Moores also gets the majority of the laughs of the evening. His routine on a horse, using a broom as the prop, is nothing short of genius.
A moment should be taken to mention David Griffiths: his piano-playing is faultless throughout. Before the curtains raise on the first half, he delights the expectant audience with a musical number, which is greeted with great applause.
For any fans of The Pirates of Penzance, this is seemingly a faultless performance. Actors performing in the crowd – putting the viewer dangerously close to audience participation – is just another a highlight from an evening that is largely entertaining. Certain audiences might be pointed towards other musicals available due to the lack of modernisation, however, thanks to the use of some of these songs in The Simpsons, there’ll certainly be reason to keep humming the tunes all the way home.
The Pirates of Penzance is currently on tour, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch a behind-the-scenes teaser of The Pirates of Penzance here:
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