Fringe Box



Hearty Performance of Pirates of Penzance in Woking

Published on: 17 Nov, 2012
Updated on: 17 Nov, 2012

The Pirates of Penzance, Rhoda McGaw Theatre, Woking

Reviewed by Charlotte Buchanan

The first time I saw the Pirates of Penzance it was performed by the D’Oyly Carte and the next time was a school production. So, to be honest, I didn’t know what to expect from the Woking Amateur Operatic Society (WAOS) version at all. But guess what? I heartily enjoyed it.

Woking Amateur Operatic Society performing Pirates of Penzance.

The WAOS has been running for nearly 40 years, staging two productions a year at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre in Woking. “Amateur” they may be but they’re a very experienced bunch and the experience shows. The Pirates of Penzance wasn’t perfect…but I can’t remember what any of the imperfections were so they clearly didn’t spoil my enjoyment!

Director Nick Murza moved the Victorian opera into the 1930s, setting a scene reminiscent of a vintage seaside poster and peopling it with endearing caricatures. The leading actors were very well cast: Anthony Batchelor, playing the apprentice pirate Frederic, and Claire Harvey, his beloved Mabel, both stood out as exceptional performers with strong singing voices and a great feel for a ridiculous Gilbert and Sullivan plot.

Gilbert and Sullivan wrote The Pirates of Penzance in 1879; a love story with a background of bizarre mixups, orphaned pirates, leap year birthdays and senses of duty. It also has some of the most famous G&S songs including “I am the very model of a modern Major-General” which was pulled off rather well by Norman Holden. Holden created a most hilarious dodderiness for the Major-General, holding the audience captive and never dropping his character for a moment.

Other notable performances came from David Methven as Ruth, the coquettishly revolting pirates’ maid (he managed better and longer in high heels than I ever have!) and Hannah Kitchener, also in drag as the Sergeant of Police, authoritative, terrified and very, very funny.

The efforts of musical director Lindsay Macaulay were clearly paying off. She conducted the seven-piece band (not the full-size orchestra Sullivan had written for!) and  – thank goodness – was able to defend herself from the pirates with her trusty wooden spoon. Phew!

WAOS is a step up from the usual amateur fare and its production of the Pirates of Penzance is well-rehearsed but still fresh and funny. All in all, a great night out!

The final show is tonight (Saturday, November 17). Box office: 01483 545999.


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