The Pirates of Penzance - Musical ☆☆☆3

Showing from - Thursday, September 24, 2015 through till Saturday, September 26, 2015

Duchess Theatre - Long Eaton

Kathryn McAuley | Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Pirates of Penzance reviewed by Kathryn McAuley on Saturday, September 26, 2015 for Downstage CentreThe very model of a modern G&S production: Derby G&S in 'The Pirates of Penzance' at Long Eaton's Duchess Theatre

Contrary to popular belief, ‘a policeman’s lot’ is a very happy one, if Derby G & S’s performance of The Pirates of Penzance is to be believed.


With a lightness of touch and more than a nod to various modern comic references, the policeman provided a gentle contrast to the eponymous pirates in a show which was years before it’s time, with an almost surreal approach to comedy.

Gilbert and Sullivan’s most popular show is the exuberant tale of Frederic, mistakenly apprenticed to a band of soft-hearted pirates at the age of eight, The skilful leads brought a wealth of experience and knowledge to the roles.who on reaching twenty one decides to leave them and dedicate himself to their eradication. On meeting a gaggle of maiden sisters and their Major-General father, Frederic promptly falls in love with Mabel, and the group escapes the clutches of the Pirate King and his band when the tender-hearted pirates believe the Major-General to be an orphan. Frederic enlists a group of equally timid policemen to challenge the pirates but a series of secrets is revealed that changes his fate forever. Needless to say, all comes out right in the end.

Of course, despite the rather implausible storyline, with G & S it’s all about the music, and the skilful leads brought a wealth of experience and knowledge to the roles.  Andy McPhee as Frederic, has a beautifully rich tone and his comfort in the role demonstrated his broad experience with G&S. Phillip Fry, as the Major-General, relished his character with every twitch of the moustache and managed the verbal acrobatics of the infamous ‘I am the very model’ with panache. His eccentricity contrasted nicely with the sweetness of Mabel, a role in which Sarah Carlin demonstrated her classical training with excellent vocal control and clear diction. The Pirate King was played with appropriate swagger by Matthew Siveter and Julie Bjerregaard clearly enjoyed the role of the older nursemaid turned pirate.

Balance and Harmonies

The show was at its best when the full chorus were on stage and the balance and harmonies of the group were allowed to swell, creating a truly choral effect.  The sound throughout the show was superb, the orchestra under the controlling baton of Andrew Nicklin modulated immediately in response to any shifts in volume on the stage. It was a pure pleasure to listen to them perform the Overture alone.

The simple set was sufficient to convey the idea of place and the extravagant costumes more than compensated for this. Some well thought out choreography meant that despite there being a large number of people on a small stage at times, they made most effective use of it, this being most evident during ‘a policeman’s lot’, when waving truncheons, bobbing helmets and nifty footwork all combined to gently comic effect. The Sergeant of Police, played by Stephen Godward, led his timid police force with a warm dourness and deep, rich voice.



G&S attracts a fervent following and I imagine the majority of the audience were well-versed in Pirates, with the many well-known songs providing the main attraction. Derby G&S did more than justice to this classic, bringing professionalism and musicality, and a delicate touch to the comedy, all in all a very fitting start to their 50th anniversary celebrations over the next year.


Production Information

Theatre: Duchess Theatre

Showing Until: Saturday, September 26, 2015

Production Company: Derby G & S Company

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