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Published date: July 8, 2019
Last modified: July 8, 2019

Young Critics Review 2019 – HMS Pinafore (by Owen Weaver)

HMS Pinafore – Charles Court Opera Company. The Guildhall, 7 July 2019

On Sunday evening I watched Charles Court Opera perform HMS Pinafore. Charles Court Opera Company specialise in bringing Gilbert and Sullivan to small and intimate venues such as pubs and townhalls.

Written in 1878, HMS Pinafore tells the story of Josephine and Ralph. Josephine – the Captain’s daughter, and Ralph – a lowly sailor, are desperate to be together despite their differences in social class.  Josephine cannot act on her feelings for Ralph as her father has arranged for her to marry The Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph Porter KCB – the ruler of the Queen’s Navy, a job he has been given based purely on the fact he was rich and upper class. Indeed, he prides himself on the fact he has never been on a ship!

Charles Court Opera have given a modern edge to the show.  HMS Pinafore is turned into a 1960’s submarine complete with the Radio 4 shipping forecast and a female sailor.

There were some good performances from the cast. The very funny Catrine Kirkman was perfect as Cousin Hebe, Philip Lee as Ralph had a good voice and Jennie Jacobs as Buttercup was very cheeky! I also loved the choreography which was by Damian Czamecki.

The Guildhall did not provide the best viewing experience.  Some of the singing and dialogue were lost due to the acoustics (I found some of the show difficult to follow) and the flat seating meant that I couldn’t always see the action.  Added to that the heavy bass from the pub next door was distracting.

This was my first experience of Gilbert and Sullivan and I was comfortably the youngest member of the audience.  Despite being written over 150 years ago, messages about duty and equality are still important today – social class should not be a barrier to your dreams. However, I can’t say I would watch it again but I think Gilbert and Sullivan fans would have enjoyed it.

By Owen Weaver (aged 11)