Thursday, February 27, 2020



H.M.S Pinafore.

Music by Sir Arthur Sullivan. Book and lyrics by Sir William Gilbert. Directed by Kate Gaul.. Musical director. Zara Stanton. Choreographer. Ash Bee. Production Designer Melanie Liertz. Lighting designer Fausto Brusamolino. Sound designer. Nate Edmondson. Siren Theatre Company. A Hayes Theatre Company Production. The Q Theatre. Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre. February 25 – 29  2020. Bookings: 02 62856290

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Oh joy! Oh Rapture. What a glorious romp. What a magical invention. Siren Theatre Company’s psychedelic production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s satirical comic opera, H.M.S Pinafore billows with colour, rollicks with action and buffets its way through the gales of laughter. G and S’s popular tale of unrequited love between Josephine (Hannah Greenshields)  faithful daughter to Captain Corcoran (Tobias Cole) and the lowly sailor Ralph Rachstraw (Bernie Palin) aboard her Majesty’s warship Pinafore is launched with all the panache of a Mardi Gras party by director Kate Gaul.
Bernie Palin as Ralph Rackstraw and  Hannah Greenshields
as Josephine Corcoran in H.M.S. Pinafore.
Photo by Paul Erbacher
I remember a time when every school and every amateur musical company would stage their favourite GandS to the delight of audiences, swayed by Arthur Sullivan’s tuneful melodies and William Gilbert’s witty and satirical jibes at the British establishment. That was before Lloyd Webber or Sondheim and the gradual demise of the traditional Gilbert and Sullivan production. In Kate Gaul’s  feisty, racy and hilariously joyful twist on H.M.S Pinafore, the tuneful melodies are still there. As is the biting wit of Gilbert’s book, with the topical references. What is strikingly new, a shining mirror held up to twenty first century attitudes and relationships, is Gaul’s imaginative gender bending and the casting of the bearded Thomas Campbell  as the not so dainty Buttercup , or Palin’s Ralph Rackstraw.

Gaul’s fantastic re-imaging with choreographer Ash Bee’s comical steps and mock semaphore dance routines, accompanied by the virtuoso rhythms of Zara Stanton’s musical direction whip up a storm of frolic and fun.  On Melanie Liertz’s colourful carnival nightclub set with coloured curtaining  musicians interchange an array of instruments with speedy versatility while Dominic Lui strikes up a musical whirlwind on the violin.
Thomas Campbell as Buttercup with the Ensemble
in H.M.S. Pinafore. Photo by Paul Erbacher
A company’s revelry in this brilliantly funny, quirky and slightly kinky production sweeps an audience along the deck of the H.M.S Pinafore. What is extraordinarily clever is that this version of the Victorian comic opera never loses its inherent sense of era.  The songs retain the character of the walz, the music hall or the recitative. It is the spirit and the imagination that thrusts this production of H.M.S Pinafore into the 21st century to entertain modern audiences still all too familiar with a society, bound within the strictures of class, wealth and unrequited love. The difference in Siren Theatre Company’s production is that reform and social revolution embodied in the anarchical character of Dick Dead-eye (played with piratical defiance by Sean Hall) can highlight the inequalities that Gilbert and Sullivan satirized. The absurdity of hierarchical ineptitude is finely captured in Josef Ber’s performance of Sir Joseph Porter. the Monarch of the Sea,

Thomas Campbell as Buttercup and Tobias Cole as
Captain Corcoran in IH.M.S. Pinafore. Photo: Paul Erbacher

Siren Theatre’s H.M.S Pinafore is a show full of infectious fun, played with agile slickness, musical versatility and vocal effervescence by a remarkably talented company of musicians, dancers and actors.  Excellent support is offered by ensemble members Bobbie Jean Henning, Elora Ledferm, Gavin Brown and Zachary Selmes.
Kate Gaul’s direction offers hope of a revival of the Gilbert and Sullivan canon, which even today bears relevance. If this production of H.M.S Pinafore is anything to go by, then what might Siren Theatre Company achieve with fresh takes on old themes in The Mikado, Iolanthe, Ruddigore and more. Siren Theatre Company’s production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s highly popular comic opera is proof enough that you can teach an old dog new tricks.