H.M.S. Pinafore – Bedlam Theatre

Libretto & Music by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan

Directed by Fraser Grant 

Choreography and Assistant Direction by Sally Franks 

Musical Direction by Kathleen Davie 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Edinburgh University Savoy Opera Group reimagine the well-known and loved Gilbert & Sullivan classic H.M.S Pinafore as a light-hearted comedic cabaret. The cast, crew and musicians take the audience on a rapid romp through the plot aboard the H.M.S. Pinafore where love, secrets, confusion, and quick-paced musical numbers reign supreme. 

The talented orchestra led by conductor Falk Meier enthusiastically present the familiar melodic overture, welcoming the audience to the show. The HMS Pinafore would be lost at sea without their gallant crew, consisting of Bella Cripwell’s Boatswain, Jamie Argo’s Carpenter and the sailors Alix Burness, Emily Paterson, and Mick Zjidel, who all succeed in maintaining the production’s pace and energy throughout the performance with genuine talent and mirth. Felix Foote’s bitter Dick Deadeye provides the perfect antagonist for the group of boisterous sailors, with effective line delivery and use of physicality. 

Commanding the stage effortlessly, Gemima Iseka-Bekano’s Buttercup makes an impression from their first entrance with “I’m called Little Buttercup” maintaining an air of intrigue about their character while pitching a rather splendid contralto voice through the Bedlam Theatre space. Harry Lempriere-Johnston portrays Captain Corcoran as bold and beloved by his crew, delivering dialogue naturally and confidently while embracing the theatrical cabaret required by the role. Iseka-Bekano’s chemistry with Lempriere-Johnston’s Captain during their tango-inspired duet to “Things Are Seldom What They Seem” is a highlight of the production. 

Sentimental and consistently the centre of attention on deck, Owen Hatch portrays the love-struck Ralph Rackshaw, although whether the character is more in love with Josephine or themselves is left up to the audience to decide. Hatch makes the performance appear effortless, simultaneously delivering a comedically and vocally skilled portrayal. Hannah Brown’s Josephine is accustomed to getting her way, with her conflict between head and heart, luxury and love exemplified in her solos.  

The standout characterisation of the performance is from Charles Barber’s Sir Joseph Porter, with their unique line delivery, facial expressions and self-righteous idiocy. The trio of Lempriere-Johnston, Barber and Brown performing “Never Mind the Why and Wherefore” showcases why this performance of HMS Pinafore works in favour of Grant’s nautical cabaret variety, Gilbert & Sullivan’s piece has always had a grasp of the comedic, and the increasingly ridiculous characterisation and physicality to Sally Franks choreography build upon it, bringing it to life with lashing of vim. 

Any mention of Sir Joseph would simply never be complete without his sisters and his cousins and his aunts, enthusiastically portrayed by a splendid ensemble formed of Mackenzie Rian Perry as Cousin Hebe, Richeldis Brosnan and Lydia Cross as the sisters, Femke Pieterse, Alana Clark and Abby Harkness as the cousins and the aunts – all of whom carry the required pomp, vitality and having tremendous fun. And with such diverse and largely egocentric personalities onstage, Frank’s engaging, comedic choreography expertly showcases the character’s personalities, as well as occasionally getting the cast to embody the ship. Luca Stier’s unassuming set design cleverly uses a few key props to maximise comedic effect, the cast playfully utilising as much of the space as they are physically able.

With this production of HMS Pinafore, EUSOG draws the audience deep into the story and have an enormous amount of fun with Grant in rejuvenating, whilst respecting the source material, which is evident in the performances and structure. And even where the mildest of choppy waves and vocals may arise, these are drowned out in the torrent of exquisite and passionate talents aboard this impressive musical marvel of a comedic opera.

Enormous Fun

H.M.S Pinafore runs at The Bedlam Theatre until April 7th. Tuesday – Friday, 19.30pm
Running time – Two hours and ten minutes with one interval. Suitable for ages 8+
Tickets begin from £9.00 and may be obtained here
Review by Mhairi Sime


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