Theatre Review: The Pirates of Penzance - King's Head Theatre, London ✭✭✭✭✭

The Pirates of Penzance
Matthew Kellet (Samuel)
Ian Jervis (Major-General Stanley)
 King's Head Theatre

The Pirates of Penzance is full of so many widely used references and song snippets, that I realised on my way to the King's Head Theatre last night that I was unsure whether or not I had ever seen a production of it in full. As it happens, I hadn’t, and I am pleased as rum punch for this to have been my first experience of the whole.

The story tells of a band of tender hearted pirates and their youngest member Frederic who, after reaching his 21st birthday and the end of his pirate apprenticeship, falls in love with Mable, the Major Generals daughter. Alas, shortly thereafter Frederic discovers that since his birthday falls on the 29th February he in fact has another 63 years to serve. It is the conflict between Frederic’s sense of duty to his pirate benefactors and his love for noblewoman Mabel that fuels the action. 

Ian Jervis (MajorGeheral Stanley)
Matthew Kellett (Samuel)
Charlotte Baptie (Edith)
Simon Masterson-Smith (Chief of police)
Pirates is Gilbert and Sullivan’s 5th collaboration and by far their most famous opera. The musical score by Arthur Sullivan nestles the crackling wit of W.S Gilbert whose liberatto of paradox and word play take the listener round in absurd circles of the silliest kind of logic.

Last night the task of staging it was taken on by the Charles Court Opera, formed in 2005 by John Savournin who last night played The Pirate King. In collaboration with the Eaton-Young Piano duo the company condenses vast musical scores into four hand or two piano pieces, allowing them to be performed in places previously inaccessible to opera and introducing them to wider audiences.

The fringe venue the King's Head Theatre leaves no room for slap dash with its 20 x 30 stage and 120 seat capacity and I’m pleased to say that the CCO delivered the intimate close encounter to an exceptionally high standard. Delivered as a narrative to the audience, the company members inclusive open-ness allowed us to see every facial flinch and twitch of the brilliant comic performances.

Praise must go to John Savournin for his seamless direction which encapsulated the campness of the piece also peppering it with knowing nod and wink moments which gave a freshness to the production.

Matthew Kelletts (Samuel) comic timing providing some truly hysterical points, and an explosion of energy was provided at the start of the second act and sustained throughout by Alexandra Hutton (Mabel), Nichola Jolley (Kate) and Charlotte Baptie (Edith) who worked as one giggling entity of girly hilarity as The Major Generals daughters.

I didn’t know light opera was my thing. Turns out, it is. The Charles Court Opera is a company well worth keeping an eye on.

5 stars out of 5 ✭✭✭✭✭

Review by Sassy Clyde


The Pirates of Penzance

King’s Head Theatre 
115 Upper Street
 London N1 1QN

Tuesday 4 September - Saturday 29 September

Tuesday - Saturday at 7.15pm 
Sunday at 3.00pm

Ticket prices: £16.00 - £25.00

Box office: 020 7478 0160