HMS Pinafore (on punts)

The Gilbert and Sullivan society ascend to a May Week Theatre nirvana, taking PETE WILKES firmly along with them.

Emma Walton Gilbert and Sullivan HMS Pinafore HMS Pinafore on Punts Pete Wilkes PUNTS

St John’s College Riverside, 24th June, 7.30pm, £5-7

Directed by Emma Walton

[rating:5/5]

The deck of the HMS Pinafore was several punts lashed together. Characters were transported onto stage via punt. During moments of particularly vigorous choreographed dancing the Pinafore would sway as if on stormy waters.

In short, the decision to play Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore on punts was a masterstroke and impressively technically realised. What could have been simply a gimmick added a striking level of realism to proceedings, particularly when Dick Deadeye (Tom Lovering) was sent wailing into the waters.

Captain Corcoran (Jonathan Padley) and Sir Joseph Porter (Neill Campbell) were excellent as male leads, ensuring the performance went swimmingly. Sir Joseph’s prancing around in black tie dress nicely emphasised the satirical aspect of the play and seeing this extravagant figure preach social equality and politeness was a real comic delight. He should provide reassurance for any students anxious about exam results: a complete lack of thought can make one the ruler of the Queen’s Navy.  At the other end of the spectrum Tom Lovering’s poignantly self aware Dick Deadeye inspired much sympathy as the other characters continued to malign him.

However Josephine (Amanda Kay) was a victim of the outdoor setting. Although she had a good speaking voice I was unable to hear her singing clearly, disappointing given the vocal strength of the other leads. However her characterisation compensated for this in the most part. She was pleasingly melodramatic as she flounced across the main deck, portraying a lovesick girl to the hilt.

The chorus of sailors produced a heart warming rendition of ‘He is an Englishman’ cheering the audience despite the ever increasing rain. It is testament to the strength of this production that despite inclement weather conditions the audience continued to laugh throughout. During the rousing finale even a startled flock of geese added their squawks to the applause. This was a first class production in which the difference between the patriotic tars and their hapless superiors was illustrated throughout.

I’m only sorry so few shows lend themselves to this setting. Punts could well be my favourite dramatic device ever.