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Review: HMS Pinafore by York Opera at York Theatre Royal

HMS Pinafore played to a packed house – this was a real achievement in itself for a first night and is testament to the reputation that York Opera’s productions have.

Gilbert and Sullivan can be performed well, and it can be performed horribly badly. We have seen both. This production sat firmly in the former description, not least for the humour and laughs injected into a G&S title that still tends to sit firmly behind Pirates of Penzance in the popularity contest for amateur production performances.

It has some brilliant numbers and a suitably complicated storyline, based around Ralph, a sailor who is madly in love with his Captain’s daughter, Josephine. The love is requited, but of course it’s not as easy as all that. Society’s norms (remember, it was written in 1878) along with another suitor who is desperate for Josephine’s affections, mean that confusion reigns and hilarity ensues. All ends well of course, and the story is nicely tied up in a bow by the finale.

This was an absolutely wonderful production, and although ‘amateur’ in name, York Opera is really as good as any professional outfit, and absolutely gives D’Oyly Carte a run for its money.

A very appreciative audience loved the moments of humour, which the cast really made the most of – I’ve never seen a G&S production be quite so funny. Dick Deadeye (Anthony Gardner) had fantastic facial expressions and a ridiculously funny demeanour, but the whole motley crew of sailors were like watching Dad’s Army, with each individual maintaining their own daft character to great effect. There was even a Private Godfrey-like character hovering at the back.

All the principals were very strong, but of particular note were John Soper as Sir Joseph Porter and Ian Thomson-Smith as Captain Corcoran, both of whom had excellent voices, but their particular strength was in their acting and comic timing. Jack Storey-Hunter (Ralph Rackshaw) and Alexandra Mather (Josephine) had beautiful voices and whether intentional or not (we think it was), the difference in their height added to the laughs and physical comedy.

A note perfect orchestra, additional sea shanties, along with excellent set and costumes meant that there was not a weak link in this production. We are looking forward to York Opera’s next production already.

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