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A truly enjoyable romp, combining traditional with up to date, that made this a very good reworking of G&S Pirates of Penzance, with loads of humour, but not at the expense of the quality of singing.

The traditional being the men – jolly pirates and slightly quirky policemen, joined by Essex girl inspired ladies, and eccentric policewomen.  A good mix, that shouldn’t really have worked, but somehow did – giving us a new take on an old standard.

Scenery was relevant to the piece, with some interesting props to tie in with a few tweaks to the lib, accompanied by some good lighting to create mood and interest.  

The men’s costumes were very traditional, but they all wore them well, with the ladies creating fun but delightfully irreverent impact with their over the top dresses and jumpsuits, and then mischievous nightwear, but all very colourful and good looking.  

The choreography was good throughout, and I loved the cheerleaders and their pom-poms, also the diversity that using current personas brought to the mix, e.g. using the passing of bottles to replenish glasses in one number.

There was a lot of tongue in cheek humour, which uplifted what could have been a slightly tired show, I must admit I enjoy a little amusement as long as it is done with commitment and a twinkle in the eyes of the perpetrators! – Certainly the case in this version, and hat’s off to Richard Fraser for his insight in giving Pirates a new lease of life, whilst keeping the essentials in place.  I liked little touches, such as the whisky barrel incident!

It might not have gone down too well with purists, but I am all for making often performed pieces more interesting!  It also served to make the cast more energetic, and I thought the ladies ensemble were particularly lively.

Sue Wookey as Ruth gave us a sterling performance in the old style, showing her lovely voice, but also managed to get that twinkle and added energy to lighten up the character.

I thought Shayn Dickens was a good Frederic, blending well between the traditional and the current, whilst showing good vocal skills.

Stephen Hoath was a swashbuckling Pirate King, singing well, but delivering the odd aside with aplomb.  He was supported well by Richard Dean as Samuel.

Edith as played by Bryony Crowden was the epitomy of an Essex girl in her union jack dress, very nicely played.

For pure voice quality Liz Bottone as Mabel took centre stage – an effortless voice, but she managed her props well whilst singing – without faltering, experience showed, and I loved her performance.

Emma and Katherine Crew played Kate and Isabel with such abandon, after seeing how sweet and charming they have been in previous productions, they were a revelation, and really took on the Essex girl persona with gusto.  Very well done.

David Crew always brings a certain gravitas to everything he does, but accompanied by his beautiful voice, he also bought into the element of being father to the bevy of uncontrollable daughters.  His Major General number was spot on, and his solo in the finale was lovely.

Jon Newham acquitted himself well as the Police Sergeant,  backed up well by Nicole Santelmann as his second in command, and his motley crew, including a beautifully behaved German Shepherd dog, PC Jerry, a delightful addition to the cast, who managed a small woof of appreciation in a break in the music!

Graham Thomson always gets the optimum out of his cast, and I loved the sound of his small but excellent band, just right for the cast and venue.

The ensemble in general really stepped up to the mark on this one – and made Pirates a thoroughly enjoyable and fun experience.

Putteridge Bury Gilbert & Sullivan Society


review date: 31st March 2017

Queen Mother Theatre, Hitchin

Director: Richard Fraser MD: Graham Thomson

Choreographers: Vikki Rehm/Katherine Crew (Ballet)


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