Thursday, 4 August 2016

La cage aux folles sur mer (All-male HMS Pinafore)

Gilbert and Sullivan, HMS Pinafore (Sasha Regan at the Curve)
What exactly do a group of men get up to when at sea? They entertain themselves by telling tales. So  goes the conceit behind Sasha Ragan’s All Male HMS Pinafore (seen 23rd July), where the sailors tell a story for below-decks amusement. The dial marked 'camp' is certainly set to 'maximum', but the story is more of less faithfully adhered to, excepting the 'cat' becomes a literal cat rather than the 'cat o'nine tails'. I think this did take away an important part of the G&S satire, but it hardly spoiled the show.
This production is not sold on the music or singing. Accompaniment is on piano (Richard Bates), and the singing is largely serviceable. These aren’t classical voices, but no amplification is used. I am not going to comment on these voices here beyond saying that they are entirely suitable to the presentation. The reality is this is closer to the pure entertainment than the attempts at symphonic art which can arise when the operetta is ‘upgraded’ to opera; here it is treated as music theatre. Three bunk beds, and a selection of crates are about it for staging. The emphasis on the story means this is more than enough space for the humour to come through. This is not great art, but it is brilliant fun. And sustained falsetto has to impress anyone.
Now we have new approaches to G&S, audiences are more than healthy. About half gave a standing ovation. There are two ways of taking G&S: as something where fun is the most important thing, or to treat it as serious music however frothy the plot. This takes it as nothing but fun, and I think that is, on balance the right thing to do. Flash-fry it, don’t slow-cook it. 
Overall: great fun.
Tour has finished. See 

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