Why are pirates called pirates? Because they arrrgh!
Yup, despite being a Victorian-era operetta, The Pirates of Penzance is by no means a sophisticated, high-brow affair. Rather, it's delightful mix of silly, jolly, light-hearted and very British humour, delivered with excellent singing voices. Think pantomime, but with an operatic twist.
Performed on a balmy evening in a wonderful church in Marcham, it was very strange to see a bunch of boisterous pirates burst through the door, laughing and singing – all part of the fun with Opera Anywhere’s performances.
The singing did not disappoint. Though a small cast, they filled the large church with raucous and jovial songs. Although at time the lyrics were hard to make out for a novice like me, this did not seem to a problem for G&S aficionados in the audience like my wife. Special mention must go to an excellent Pirate king in Miles Horner and crossed lovers Mabel (Ellie Neate) and Frederic (Tristan Stocks).
Despite the minimal use of scenery, props, lighting, and the fact they were accompanied only by a single piano, there was a huge amount of energy and enthusiasm throughout the performance. The quality of the singing and playing was in contrast to the minimal set-up, giving the performance the feel of a super high-quality amateur dramatic panto.
As one would expect from Gilbert and Sullivan, the narrative was light-hearted and silly: Frederic, a young man apprenticed to become a pirate by mistake, serves the rogues until his 21st birthday whereupon, his duty done, he resolves to leave them. By happy chance he meets Mabel, the daughter of a Major General. Shenanigans ensue, including the capture of the Major’s daughters by the pirates, and Frederic discovering that because he was born in a leap year, he is only 5 years old and thus still indentured to the pirates. I don’t think I’m giving anything away when I tell that it all ends happily.
Ultimately, this was a lovely, British evening of silliness and fun, including civilised cake-stalls and glasses of prosecco (this was a charity performance after all). I struggled a little to get the humour because I couldn’t quite make out the (very funny) lyrics, but my G&S aficionado wife loved it. A good way to spend a warm summer’s evening.