Opera Review





Charles Court Opera

Pirates of Penzance


Rosemary Branch Theatre


18 - 23 November 2008






A review by Tim Jeeves for EXTRA! EXTRA!


The fun of Gilbert and Sullivan, the hard work and talent of Charles Court Opera, the intimacy of the Rosemary Branch: three sturdy supports on which to build a night of theatrical joviality.

Being the source of songs such as A Modern Major General and When a felon's not engaged in his employment (A Policeman’s Lot is not a Happy One) that have seeped well into the common psyche, there is plenty here familiar to those who don’t know Pirates of Penzance. Even without these hum-along numbers though, the fun whirling around the performance would draw in any but the most grumpy.

It’s tricky to single out any individual performance, all were of a very high standard – the chorus of General’s daughters were wonderfully girly and giggly (without ever stepping into the realms of irritation), the Pirates possessed a splendid camp abandon, the police were sternly bumbling and Richard Stewart’s Major-General Stanley was suitably self-absorbed.

Special note should perhaps be made of John Savournin’s direction and Holly Strawson’s choreography though. The cast was massive for the size of the Rosemary Branch’s stage, but the ensemble movement was assured and impressive.
David Eaton’s musical direction was similarly precise, the solos and ensemble singing were all admirable, whilst the combination of David Eaton and James Young on the piano provide a very solid base on which to build the rest of the show.

The considered direction, in combination with the warmth of the performances and the close proximity of the audience to the stage, provided a thoroughly rewarding experience.

The Rosemary Branch holds a very special place in the London fringe theatre scene – it’s dedication to putting on ambitious productions such as this that bring opera into entirely different (and more accessible) environments than the pomp and grandeur with which the genre is normally associated should be supported.

Charles Court Opera aren’t regularly funded. How they manage to put on work of such quality with minimal funds is a lesson to us all in this time of crunching credit and diminishing arts funding. Which isn’t to say they don’t need your support. I’m sure they do in order to continue with this important work; so stop reading this review (it’s nearly at the end anyhow), get your backside over to Shoreditch and lay your money on the box office desk as soon as you can!

Run: 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23 November

Ticket Info: £15 (£12 concessions)

Box Office: 020 7704 6665






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