Sunday, 13 December 2020

REVIEW: Sasha Regan's All-Male Pirates of Penzance at The Palace Theatre

While much of the West End continues to suspend in the air, or transform into a virtual medium, ever so cautiously we are beginning to see more and more action return to the empty stages. Resilience from the performing arts industry in the face of this global pandemic is finally paying off. A perfect foray back into the theatre, to remind us of the pure joy, laughter and escapism it can bring is Sasha Regan's all-male ensemble of The Pirates of Penzance. 

Arguably Gilbert & Sullivan's most famous operetta, The Pirates of Penzance is full of wit, romance and iconic music largely standing the test of time. Regan’s delightfully physical and novel version of the beloved show manages to uncover a simplicity and new comic layer in it. Premiering at the Union Theatre in 2009, the show has endured success in London and Australia rightly giving the multi-award-winning director and producer a reputation as once of the UK’s innovative theatre-makers.

Set in Victorian England, the overall triumph of this version is the never faltering and highly comic ensemble. Bouncing between pirates, ladies and awkward policemen, it was from the moment they entered as the young women all dressed in white singing Climbing over rocky mountain in a soaring harmony, I didn't want them to leave the stage. Sporting visible chest hair, five o’clock shadows and masculine physiques in corsets, gender became irrelevant. The simplicity of the set design by Robyn Wilson-Owen allowed the ensemble to transform the space physically and choreography and movement by Lizzi Gee and Lee Greenway sophisticatedly showed them off as a collective of clowns. A special mention goes to ensemble member Matthew Facchino (Ensemble) and Lee Greenway (Connie) for their excellent and consistent comic timing and energy from start to finish.

Oliver Savile as the Pirate King was elegant and commanding gliding around the stage. David McKenchine as Major-General Stanley did not disappoint with his rendition of I am the very model of a modern Major-General and Tom Senior embodies the Pirate Apprentice and romantic lead Frederic with some swagger. It was Alan Richardson as Mable however, who left the audience in awe as he effortlessly hit the high notes and pathos required for the role. 

A single piano masterfully in command by Richard Baker provides the only musical accompaniment for the entire show and supports the delicate humour, pace and each cast member beautifully.

Except for a few forced moments and a slightly humorous yet ultimately cheap reference to the pandemic which break the pace of the fast-moving plot, this production of The Pirates of Penzance is lots of fun for all. I can not help but long to see an all-female version next.

Sasha Regan's ALL-MALE THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE is playing for two nights only at The Palace Theatre from Dec 12-13.

Review by Stephanie Osztreicher

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Stalls F27 | Price of Ticket: from £58.50

Photography by Danny Kaan 
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