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Gilbert and Sullivan The Pirates of Penzance

Russell Whitehead, Alan Richardson,Ricky Rojas, Samuel J Holmes, Joe Maddison

directed by Sasha Regan
choreographer Lizzi Gee
designer Robyn Wilson
musical director Christopher Mundy

Wilton's Music Hall, Grace's Alley, London E1, April 17

The Pirates and Wilton's Music Hall; could there be a better match between two cultural gems of a past era? (Do click on the link above for a tour of Wilton's).

Close by the Tower of London, it is a unique and charming relic of a bygone age. Dilapidated and crumbling almost beyond rescue, it is being progressively restored with love and dedication and given a new lease of life against all odds. Under the direction of Frances Mayhew it now boasts loyal audiences for residencies and diverse programming of high standard, with opera seasons through the last decade including a memorable Turn of the Screw.

The Pirates of Penzance has survived with ease since 1880 and is embedded in the national psyche, a work of popular culture regarded with great affection. Sasha Regan directs an all male cast with sensitivity, the gender reversal heightening a subversive stereotyping of female characters with insightful and gentle humour.

Alan Richardson's Mabel is spell bindingly exquisite. Soaring up into the leger lines, his high notes had bell-lke clarity. Lizzy Gee choreographs the cast to use the small stage and the auditorium with inventiveness and balletic precision. From a musical standpoint, my only reservation is that a more flamboyant pianist might raise the game; Christopher Mundy kept things under control playing the piano score, but without adding flair to heighten the excitement?

A heart warming show, one not to be missed (until 16 May).

Alexa Woolf


Financial Times An object lesson in the art of successful G&S: don’t monkey around with the inherent silliness; instead take it seriously but not earnestly. A dozen or so pretty boys don’t hurt either.

Telegraph magnificent proof – if any is needed – of the astounding resilience of G and S. An East End transfer from the Union Theatre in Waterloo to Wilton’s in Wapping, and it fits this lovely old music hall like a glove.Everyone sings as well as they can, but these aren’t highly trained voices. A tinny grand piano is spiritedly played and there is no miking of any kind.

MusicOMH - The show's staging is simply great, using the atmospheric background of Wilton's well, with the pirates swarming across the whole space of both the stage and the theatre