HMS Pinafore at English National Opera is a joyous entertainment that revels in the humour while ensuring the highest standards of musicianship.
It is, shock horror, enjoyable.
Yet it is a mark of our strange times when performing Gilbert and Sullivan seems quite brave and some companies would fret themselves onto a woke apoplexy performing an opera based in imperial times with a naval theme and, while admittedly taking the mickey out of too much flag waving, wasn’t turned into a vehicle of self-loathing.
We are left with a charming period piece, lively and funny, with just enough contemporary anti-government humour that we know which side we are really on and a finale celebrating diversity of nationality, presumably of the singers themselves, to counteract any jingoistic flag-waving en route.
Elgan Llŷr Thomas
Les Dennis and Rufus Bateman
Rufus Bateman and John Savournin (right)with chorus members and actors
The production feels fresh as much due to the ENO chorus who shine vocally but with a slew of hidden talents – tap-dancing and horn-pipes, acrobatics and comic timing – as the fact that they really looked like they were enjoying themselves. John Savournin as Corcoran and his sidekick Tom Tucker here played by Rufus Bateman steal the show with endless pranks and general mucking about. The thwarted couple who finally get together, Ralph Rackstraw and Josephine, sung by ENO Harewood artists Elgan Llŷr Thomas and Alexandra Oomens join in the fun. These are excellent young singers and it will be a joy to follow their careers.
Les Dennis as Sir Joseph Porter is perhaps still too much the cheeky chappy comedian to really pull off the bombastic butt of all jokes while Hilary Summers as Little Buttercup commands the stage at every appearance and manages to be heart-warming and slightly grotesque at the same time, the scene between Buttercup and the Captain is really quite sweet.
In all, a fun and entertaining show from director Cal McCrystal and dance choreography by Lizzie Gee with gorgeous costumes by taki.
The set, a cutaway frigate, makes good use of what we now know (thanks to the Westminster Council ban on flames during the following night’s opening performance of Valkyrie) is the original wooden stage and revolve.
The chorus is an absolute joy of singing and acting, jaunty dancing and some fine cameo roles. The glorious score is deloevred with alolomb and more delight fromt he orchesta conducted by Chris Hopkins.
Ignore the operatic merchant of gloom in some of our other big opera companies – treat yourself to a fine production and a large tot of happiness.
Until December 11.
Images Marc Brenner