Theatre Review: HMS Pinafore at the Yvonne Arnaud
HMS Pinafore is playing at the Yvonne Arnaud until Sept 22
Ahoy! Rob Edwards reviews Opera Della Luna’s production of HMS Pinafore at Guildford’s much loved Yvonne Arnaud
The swashbuckling musical classic, HMS Pinafore, moored on the banks of Guildford’s River Wey this September bringing Gilbert and Sullivan’s laugh-out-loud comic opera to the Yvonne Arnaud.
Opera Della Luna has a long and flamboyant history, reinterpreting older shows into the ensemble chamber, doing this nautical narrative remarkable justice.
On first impression the set is drab and basic, draped in dust cloths with a curious selection of props suspended from the rafters. As the overture begins the stage suddenly comes to life, and the Pinafore’s able seamen construct the ship deck, complete with mast, sails and rigging.
Director Jeff Clarke, who appears onstage as pianist and conductor, leads a band of seven musicians whose superb skill is dampened merely by its small size and resulting lack of power.
This is more than recompensed by the stirring operatic vocals of Rhona McKail, a recent graduate of the Guildhall School of Music & Drama who is almost certainly destined for West End greatness. The tremoring emotion in her performance is engrossing. Without a doubt she is the star of the show.
This jolly satire of star-crossed lovers tells the story of love across the class divide, set on a proud British vessel moored in Portsmouth Harbour.
The crew are busily preparing for the imminent visit of the First Lord of the Admiralty, Sir Joseph Porter (Philip Cox). He has expressed an interest in Captain Corcoran’s (Ian Belsey) beautiful daughter, Josephine (Rhona McKail), but the feelings are far from mutual!
She has secretly fallen in love with a common sailor aboard her father’s ship, the rugged Ralph Rackstraw (Tim Walton). The resulting dilemma tortures the ill-suited lovers until the Admiral and Captain are forced to confront their entrenched class-prejudice.
As Captain Corcoran, Gilbert and Sullivan’s slight on pompous men of rank, Ian Belsey exhibits an epic vocal range and brilliant comic timing.
With superb performances from Glyndebourne Festival Opera’s Louise Crane as the gypsy woman, Little Buttercup, and Opera Della Luna veteran Martin George as Bill Bobstay the Boatswain, HMS Pinafore is a light-hearted tale, peppered with witty, powerful songs including “He is an Englishman” and “Sorry her lot who loves too well”.
HMS Pinafore runs at the Yvonne Arnaud until Saturday Sept 22. Call the box office on 01483 440 000 or visit their website yvonne-arnaud.co.uk.