Opera review: The Pirates of Penzance, Glasgow

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IN HIS nimble new production for Scottish Opera of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance, director Martin Lloyd-Evans has delivered exactly what he promised – a fresh and vital slant on an old chestnut that neither settles for hackneyed routine nor corrupts it with needless modernisation.

The Pirates of Penzance

Theatre Royal Glasgow

* * * *

Much of that is down to Jamie Vartin’s refreshing designs: a kind of picture-book concept that is clean, suggestive, crisp and – in the case of the Major General’s hilariously overcrowded chapel – part and parcel of the production’s well-tempered comedy.

And there are many genuine laughs to be had, from the feckless Pirates and comic-book Police, to a raft of solo performances that go well beyond G&S stereotypes, not least because they sing magnificently. With the occasional nod to Monty Python, Lloyd-Evans pitches it neatly between the satirical and the absurd.

Steven Page’s Pirate King has a dash of Jack Sparrow about him, cheeky, authoritative, but occasionally caught off his guard. Rosie Aldridge sings Ruth with a gentle maturity. The lightweight innocence of Nicholas Sharratt’s Frederic simply exaggerates the wonderful strain of lunacy that ignites Stephanie Corley’s bubbly Mabel. Richard Suart and Graeme Broadbent bring a refreshing individuality to the Major General and Sergeant of Police.

With advertised conductor John Owen Edwards removed from the opening night, Derek Clark stepped in admirably and efficiently, though there’s still some settling in to do from the orchestra perspective.

Otherwise, a great night’s entertainment.